Understand Fashion Companies’ Merchandising and Marketing Strategies for Clothing Made from Recycled Materials


With consumers’ increasing awareness of sustainability and building a circular economy, more and more fashion retailers carry clothing made from recycled materials. This study aims to explore U.S. fashion retailers’ detailed merchandising and pricing strategies for clothing made from recycled material to provide more business insights into this fast-growing market.

By leveraging StyleSage, a big data tool for the fashion industry, we checked millions of clothing items (at the Stock Keeping Unit, SKU level) made from recycled materials available in the U.S. retail market from June 2018 to June 2021. The results show that:

  • First, top U.S. sellers of clothing made with recycled materials include BOTH sustainability-based brands and fast-fashion brands.
  • Second, the most utilized recycled textile fibers include Polyester, Nylon, and Cotton.
  • Third, U.S. retailers adopt unique product assortment strategies for clothing made from recycled material. Recycled clothing, in general, carry more “Shorts” and “outerwear, coats, and jackets,” and fewer “Sleepwear” and “dresses.”
  • Fourth, U.S. retailers adopt unique color strategies for clothing made from recycled materials, using “black” more often but using “Neutral color” much less.
  • Fifth, U.S. retailers typically price clothing using recycled materials at least 50% lower than regular new clothing. The price difference for “Bridal”, “Suits”, “Causal jackets and blazers” and “Outerwear, coats, and jackets” was particularly notable.

The study’s findings confirm that clothing made from recycled materials is a critical market to watch with growing business opportunities. The findings also suggest that U.S. fashion retailers adopt unique merchandising and pricing strategies for recycled clothing, affected by the product supply and consumers’ preferences. Additionally, the study’s findings call for more exploration of leveraging recycled clothing to achieve sustainability and lower sourcing costs.

By Ally Botwinick (2021 UD Summer Scholar, Fashion merchandising and Management Major); Faculty advisor: Dr. Sheng Lu

Full article: Ally Botwinick & Sheng Lu (2021). Market promising for clothing made from recycled materials. Just-Style

This research was presented at the 2021 University of Delaware Undergraduate Research Symposium on August 12, 2021.

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

3 thoughts on “Understand Fashion Companies’ Merchandising and Marketing Strategies for Clothing Made from Recycled Materials”

  1. Great work Ally! Sustainability is extremely important to consumers worldwide including myself. Was very interesting to learn what types of textile fibers are being utilized the most when recycling. Hoping in the future the fashion industry becomes more environmentally friendly and socially conscious. You did a great job at explaining how you found your data, StyleSage seems like a very cool program within the fashion industry. I am very excited to see what more research you do in the future, as sustainability is the future of fashion!

  2. First off, congrats for such an incredible collaboration to display all your hard work Ally, I’m here signing in as a proud friend and colleague! I recommend that all UD students take any opportunity to work with Dr.Lu through his research programs.
    In response to the blog and study itself:
    Throughout our time in the UD Fashion program, we have learned the various elements and subcultures surrounding the prosperous future of sustainable clothing in the fashion industry. Whether it be through technology, global supply chain, assortment planning, omni-channel retailing, branding, etc., we are always discussing how each sector of the industry can be remodeled to stand more sustainability, while also creating profits for all stakeholders involved. As we become new members of the industry in the coming years between 2022-2032, we are entering a developing arena of opportunity that is the sustainable fashion market. Circular fashion business models, up-cycling programs/designs, and recycled materials in textile development are just a few specific examples of what is discussed when thinking about more ethically sourced apparel options. I believe there is also a stigma surrounded around second-hand clothing, up-cycling, and recycled materials that we discussed briefly in a psychology of fashion class here at UD. This could have been a limitation/bias of this study when participants went to answer certain questions. But in the long run, its a beneficial variable that shows how starting with reshaping a consumer mindset will be the start of the sustainable revolution that opens up doors of discussion for pricing, curation, merchandising, sourcing and leveraging the sustainability market as discussed in the study.

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