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Industry Nov 3, 2020 10 min read

Veganuary: strategies for success

It's not too early to start preparing for the increasingly-popular vegan movement.

veganuary

This year, Veganuary broke all records with 400,000 participants worldwide pledging to stick to a plant-based diet for the first month of the year. While the movement primarily affects the food industry, vegans are looking to incorporate their lifestyle into their wardrobes and makeup bags.

Vegans are shopping for cruelty-free cosmetics and spearheading the demand for alternatives to animal-free products, making Veganuary an increasingly important opportunity for retailers.

Get a head start on planning for the movement next year as we investigate how vegan assortments have evolved in the COVID era, spotlight the sales-driving categories, recap how retailers supported Veganuary in 2020, as well as the growth of animal-free products in major markets. 

Want an exclusive look into the retail data platform that Zara, Puma and Marni use to make more informed decisions? Reach out to an EDITED Retail Specialist today.

Why it’s more important than ever

More people are taking the pledge

At the end of October, it was reported the global Veganuary movement welcomed its one-millionth participant since the campaign launched in 2014. Latin America and India experienced the steepest growth in supporters this year.

COVID-19 caused consumers to rethink lifestyle habits

The World Health Organization (WHO) states 60% of all human pathogens and 75% of new or emerging infectious diseases originate from animals. With the outbreak of coronavirus starting at a live trade market, there’s additional demand for vegan alternatives.

Your competitors are investing

Despite a turbulent year for delivering new products, vegan arrivals saw an upwards trajectory increasing 8% YoY across categories from August 1st. On the other side of the coin, investment in pure leather waned with arrivals dropping 11% YoY.

It affects key fabric trends

Complimenting the emerging sexy dressing trend, leather continues to be a runway-approved fabric indicating the mass market will need to invest in animal-free alternatives. Similarly, as the cozy aesthetic ramps up further ahead of the second lockdown in Europe and the UK, fabrics such as wool, fur and down replacements will be highly sought after.

Insights to back up your strategy

Footwear: Retailers are backing vegan sneakers and slippers

Overall new vegan arrivals declined 7% YoY, while pure leather saw a more significant drop of 17%. Footwear styles were more commonly described as faux/mock over vegan, providing opportunity to rebrand to appeal to the growing lifestyle shift.

Mirroring the wider comfort and athleisure driven trends that continue to define the COVID era, investment was noted in vegan sneakers and slippers up 47% and 59% YoY, respectively. With vegan footwear skewed towards women, these styles are an easy way to extend the offer to menswear through cruelty-free leather or suede and faux shearling.

Vegan alternatives are becoming more ingrained within mass market brands. Monki’s fall footwear and accessories range was animal-free, while NA-KD released an apple leather sneaker.

Outerwear: New outerwear styles are up 6% YoY

Equaling 40% of vegan arrivals across the US and UK, retailers are leveraging outerwear to mimic fur, wool and leather textures. While solutions to these that are both sustainable and animal-friendly aren’t yet widely available in the mass market, change is in motion as the climate emergency accelerates and consumer awareness grows.

In December, the UK is expected to weigh in on the future of wild animal fur exports when Britain leaves the EU. If banned, luxury brands will exclude fur and skins from their collections and look to eco-friendly replacements, influencing the market from the top down.

With lockdown restrictions causing a greater appreciation for the outdoors, the puffer jacket has emerged as a hero item. Savvy retailers have given it a sustainable overhaul to resonate with this market by sourcing recycled down or opting for animal-free insulation such as PrimaLoft.

Accessories: 33% and 26% more vegan gloves and belts available vs. 2019, respectively.

With people working from home and events canceled, accessories have been a dormant category in 2020. Nevertheless, vegan options have still found their way into mass market assortments. Handbags are the dominant category, while entry-priced items such as belts and gloves are more accessible now than in previous years. The latter is becoming an attractive area of investment, with gloves providing a sense of hygiene, comfort and personal safety – paramount during the current climate.

Like footwear, the majority of accessories are described as faux/mock. Brands have introduced animal-free options to their consumer through non-leather versions of best-selling items to get a read on the market.

Wool alternatives

With PETA campaigning for an end to wool in the fashion industry, the use of the fiber at mass market retailers is shifting. The number of available products containing wool in the care and composition has fallen 9% vs. 2019, while mohair is down 71%. Interestingly, products stocked with cashmere in its care and composition have increased by 8% YoY. Brands such as H&M, Mango and Madewell are offering eco options investing in recycled cashmere products.

Following boohoo’s ‘woolgate’ incident of 2019 where the retailer backed out of its decision to forego stocking wool products within 24 hours, the fast fashion retailer has instead grown the term ‘wool look.’ Predominantly outerwear (spanning menswear, plus, petite and maternity labels) new arrivals of these items with this keyword have expanded 18% YoY over the past three months.

Following PETA’s undercover exposé of the world’s largest privately-owned alpaca farm in Peru, Uniqlo joined retailers such as Marks & Spencer and H&M in dropping the animal’s wool from its ranges. According to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, alpaca wool ranks as the second most environmentally damaging material after silk. Though not as accessible as vegan leather, cruelty-free alternatives to conventional silk are starting to gain traction. Peace silk, offered by brands such as Nudie Jeans, Stine Goya and Mother of Pearl, is woven from the already hatched moth cocoons. However, there is currently no certification to guarantee the standard of this alternative.

Beauty

The beauty industry responded to demand for cruelty-free products long before the boom in veganism we know today, putting this industry ahead of apparel in animal-free products.

Driven by brands targeted at Gen-Z, many adopt vegan ingredients alongside ethical practices. Vegan beauty is continuing to infiltrate the mass market with brands such as & Other Stories introducing vegan body care.

As protective masks and face coverings cement themselves as an everyday lifestyle accessory, there will be a heightened interest on vegan skincare, foundations, mascara, eyeshadows and eyeliner.

Vegan trailblazers

Since 2018, continued growth has been noted in the US and UK. By the end of January, there was a 43% YoY increase in products described as ‘vegan’ stocked in the UK. In the US, this grew by 64%. According to last year’s Mintel research, the UK overtook Germany as the world leader for vegan food launches. A major market for cruelty-free fashion in its own right, the number of vegan products retailing online in Germany has grown 95% since 2018.

While this growth signals the fashion industry’s process of moving away from the use of animal hides in production, there is still the question around sustainability within vegan products. Designers are yet to find widely-available alternatives to vegan leathers and faux furs that are both cruelty-free and eco-friendly. 

All eyes turn to Paris, which is poised to become the sustainable capital of fashion by 2024. With its focus on innovations for environmentally-friendly materials and sourcing, we can expect to see significant strides made in this area over the next four years. Established in this space, France saw a 132% increase in products described as ‘vegan’ YoY.

Another market to keep on your radar is Denmark. Outside of the region’s effortless Scandi style, Denmark is home to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the world’s leading business event on sustainability in fashion. In their 2019 CEO Agenda, they encouraged fashion retailers to push for industry standards for animal welfare and continue to research alternative solutions to fabrics. In the Danish market, EDITED tracked a 42% increase in products described as ‘vegan’ YoY.

What’s luxury’s role in all this?

Designers such as Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Versace and Victoria Beckham have vowed to keep their catwalks fur-free. This cohort sets an example for the rest of the industry to follow. In the US, there is already a 36% YoY decline of women’s fur arrivals over the past three months. 

Leather and skins are still prominent in the luxury market, synonymous with designers such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton who have built their legacy on leather goods. 

EDITED analyzed womenswear luxury products currently in stock in the US and UK market described as ‘vegan’, ’non-leather’, ’faux leather’ and iterations of. These alternatives make up only 2.3% of women’s leather goods for luxury brands and are driven predominantly by Stella McCartney, who has offered cruelty-free options from brand inception.

While pure leather continues to be big business in the luxury market, contemporary luxe brands such as Nanushka are providing customers with high-quality vegan leather alternatives. 

Additionally, consumers may not be as aware of the human and animal welfare involved in the silk trade compared to leather or wool. Organizations like PETA are working to educate the public on the conditions of exploited workers and the controversial process in which the silk fiber is collected from the cocoon by boiling the pupal alive.

While vegan silk isn’t yet as mainstream as vegan leather,” cruelty-free alternatives to conventional silk are starting to gain traction. Peace silk is woven from cocoons of the already hatched moth. However, there is currently no certification to guarantee the standard of this alternative. In the US, brands such as Stine Goya and Mother of Pearl are stocking products described as containing peace silk. On a further area of innovation, Stella McCartey is among those experimenting with plant-based silks, while startups such as Cocoon Biotech and Spintex Engineering are working with recycled silks. 

Cupro is emerging as a cruelty-free alternative to silk. Already a mainstay for lining and trim, cupro is a waste product of cotton that maintains the sheen, hand feel and drape of silk. Cupro has seen a rise within luxury and premium retailers in the US market. A previous EDITED study conducted in November revealed products available online described as “100% cupro” (including in the lining and trim) increased 66% YoY.

The price tag

While 100% leather goods are coveted for their premium status and high quality, animal-free alternatives come with a competitive price tag. 

We compare the full price of leather versus non-leather products stocked in the US mass market at the end of January. In every category, vegan leather is the cheaper alternative.

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Interestingly, on average vegan leather outerwear, trousers and skirts come in more than 3 times cheaper. Retailers such as Banana Republic and Topshop are catering to different market segments, offering both 100% and vegan leather styles.  

Check out the price comparison of these mass market styles.

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Despite the consistent growth, there’s still a need for retailers to find alternatives in garments that are friendly to both the environment and animals. 

The conversation

• The first mention of Vegnauary last year was from Lush beauty on December 27th. Cue your communications straight after Christmas where consumers will be planning lifestyle changes ahead of the new year.

• Following high spending throughout the festive period and the unstable economic climate, be sure to promote products at entry-level price points to appeal to consumers tightening their purse stings.

• Across VM channels in January, mentions of vegan and Veganuary increased by 38% YoY.

• Faux leather and fur are the core trends highlighted by retailers in communications showcasing vegan shopping edits over the period.

• Beauty is an easy win for retailers during Veganuary, with many brands promoting the category in emails.

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