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One in four clothing items hang unworn in wardrobes

The average person in the UK owns 118 items of clothing – just over a quarter of which have not been worn for at least a year.

The finding comes from two pieces of research from the sustainability charity WRAP looking at the life expectancy of clothing in UK wardrobes and shoppers’ appetite for new models of acquiring clothes.

Key findings include:

  • Shoppers are keeping clothes longer than the last time research in this area was conducted in 2013.
  • People tend to keep ‘preloved’ and second-hand clothes longer, at 5.4 years, compared to four years for off the peg. Repairing clothing was found to extend its lifespan by a further 1.3 years.
  • Almost 23% of people in the UK say they regularly buy clothing with the intention of using it for a short amount of time.
  • The average person in the UK owns 118 items of clothing (including underwear, socks and hosiery), of which a quarter have not been used in the past year. That’s an estimated 1.6 billion unworn items in UK wardrobes.

Recognition and levels of use/purchase for circular business models is said to be low in the UK. But the research concluded there is a potential mainstream market for circular business models in the UK, with two in five (40%) UK citizens saying they are likely to use a subscription service, increasing to nearly three in five (58%) for a repair service.
 
‘WRAP’s research confirms a clear case and mainstream potential market for brands and retailers to implement circular business models and increase the utilisation of clothing,’ the charity says. ‘A fashion revolution could help clothe the nation sustainably.’

WRAP’s two-part report, Citizen Insights: Clothing Longevity and Circular Business Models Receptivity in the UK, surveyed more than 6 000 adults in the UK. An additional survey of 2,100 people gauged interest in new business models.

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