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Asda ‘Re-Loved’: affordable, accessible eco-fashion

The quest to avoid fast-fashion has been in full-force for quite some time now. However, until now, the eco-conscious fashion consumer’s options have remained limited. Environmentally savvy shoppers are all too familiar with the common dilemma: spend big bucks at carefully curated vintage boutiques, or sacrifice time and convenience to root around for a charity shop bargain. The challenge of budget makes unethical and unsustainable fast-fashion retailers seem all the more attractive to the cash-strapped student. But fear not, a compromise might be on the horizon, and from an unlikely source…

The supermarket retailer Asda, and their in-house clothing brand, George, have recently teamed up with Preloved Kilo, the student favourite vintage kilo sale provider. The pair are trialling a brand-new ‘Re-Loved’ second-hand clothing scheme, currently rolling out in five Asda stores across Scotland and the North of England, offering “quality vintage, retro & second-handed branded pieces” (prelovedkilo.com). Pieces will range from, but are not limited to sportswear, dresses, blouses, coats, jackets, jeans, t-shirts & polo, shirts. 

While any step towards prioritising the environment in retail is a great thing, ‘green-washing’ is a real worry for environmentally conscious shoppers. Many brands are picking up (and quickly dropping) sustainability like a passing fad, or else using the image of eco-friendless as a façade to disguise their not-so-green practices. 

However, this doesn’t appear to be the case with George. The new iniative supplements their current sustainability policies, which include a “zero-tolerance policy towards incineration of clothing waste”, their “first range of recycled polyester clothing”, and “clothing recycling points for customers at almost 500 stores” (corporate.asda.com). Aside from fashion, the supermarket is also trialling a refill station system as part of a sustainable eco-store located in Leeds. Through a partnership with numerous household name-brands, including PG Tips and Persil, customers can purchase food and non-food staples such as cereal, coffee, detergent, and toiletries at affordable pay-by-weight prices. This coincides with the supermarket’s “national price promise that loose and unwrapped products will not cost more than wrapped equivalents” (Asda corporate), decreasing unnecessary plastic packaging. 

I was lucky enough to get an exclusive online Q&A with Jade Snart, Sustainability and Compliance Expert, and Scott Macrae, New Business and Partnerships Manager with Asda, responsible for the conception of Asda Re-loved:

Q: What inspired you to come up with the scheme? Were you influenced by any existing retailers/schemes? 

Jade: This partnership was a result of an initial pop-up trial in one of our stores back in Sept 2019 as part of sustainable September, we really wanted to test the appetite of our customers for second-hand clothing but also felt passionate about driving the circular economy forward and giving unwanted clothing that second lease of life. 

Scott: We would never have got the courage to do this if Jade had not trialled the Breast Cancer Now partnered pop-up shop in our Milton Keynes store. The success of that gave us a great learning experience and challenged our expectations of our customers, leading us to where we are. 

Q: Students and younger consumers are already heavily invested in the slow-fashion market. What kind of target market are you hoping to attract with the Asda Re-Loved scheme? 

Jade: Our aim was to drive a younger footfall into our store whilst protecting our current customer age group and after the initial two weeks of trading this concept, it appears that all age groups are interested in the second-hand market which is absolutely great!

Q: There is a noticeable gap in the second-hand clothing market between more and less curated retailers, which is usually reflected in the price. Where will Re-loved sit?

Jade: We wanted to offer vintage second-hand clothing at affordable prices, and Preloved Kilo absolutely met this criteria. Preloved work with a small number of partners globally and handpick all their product that is both sold as part of their events as well as within our stores, which passes through several quality checks, giving us the absolute confidence that the product on sale is right for our customer and the values we drive within our business.

Scott: On our opening, I visited Urban Outfitters, who were selling the same brands in denim jackets & Ralph Lauren shirts in their pre-loved section for three times the price. Hopefully we can democratise the preloved market for our customers, delivering fantastic value.

Q: Is there potential for more stores to be included if the trial is successful? Could Re-loved become a more permanent feature at Asda? 

Jade: This is absolutely part of our long-term strategy and we plan to launch a further four stores by the end of November with the potential for more by the end of the year. These are not pop-up shops, they are planned permanent concepts that form part of the wider George product offering.

Q: Which specific stores are planned to host Re-loved? Where is the nearest one to Edinburgh?

Jade: All will be revealed within the next few weeks but I think Edinburgh will be happy with our selected locations!

Like Jade and Scott, Melanie Wilson, Senior Director for Sustainable Sourcing at George, demonstrates a future-thinking attitude, not just to Asda’s environmental responsibility, but their influence over consumer mindsets:

“As a country, we throw away far too many clothes. At George, we’re committed to doing the right thing by our customers and the planet by improving the sustainability of our products, making sure they are built to last – including our 100-day satisfaction guarantee – and ensuring that any surplus stock we have is repurposed or recycled. By trialling our Re-Loved pop-up shop, we hope to help create another route for unwanted clothes to find a new home and encourage people to think again about throwing away that top or those jeans they no longer love” (corporate.asda.com).

The advent of the Re-loved scheme could be potentially revolutionary for the second-hand fashion market, making curated slow-fashion available to the everyday consumer, rather than just the wealthy few. The convenience of the in-supermarket location removes the extra effort, putting those who don’t have the time or know-how in a position to access second-hand pieces that are both wearable and affordable. By shopping with Asda Re-Loved rather than charity shops, you won’t be channelling profits away from good causes either, as all proceeds will go to Asda’s Tickled Pink campaign, supporting Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now. 

So keep your eyes peeled – on your next supermarket shop, you might pick up a vintage bargain!

Image: corporate.asda.com