Peak Shopping Seasons and Sustainability

Students walking through the halls wearing their back-to-school clothing

Thus far, 2021 is looking to be a significant rebound year for the garment industry coming from the pandemic-related squeeze of last year. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Retail Sales Report for July revealed that clothing and accessories sales are up 43.4% from last year, a surge in demand mostly attributed to the reopening of social establishments and back-to-school shopping. Many of us have put off replenishing our sweatpants-ridden wardrobes because the majority of our time was being spent in the home. Now everyone is scrambling to add the latest trends to their rotation as we prepare to meet some familiar faces once again. 

The potential for waste creation during these peak shopping seasons, however, has become worrying in recent years. During this time where climate change is at a critical tipping point, what is your brand doing to operate sustainably amidst the chaos?

The Real Ramifications of Fashion Industry-Related Waste

It’s a lesser-known fact outside the apparel industry that fashion is one of the biggest contributing industries to pollution in the entire world. While this may seem like a blatantly implausible claim, just hear us out. There are several major contributing factors to the fashion industry’s monstrous carbon footprint:     

A woman buying sustainable clothing for back-to-school
  • Exponential demand and high turnover rates for clothing have increased the carbon impact of clothing manufacture and textile waste. 
  • When brands receive returns, they are often tossed into landfills as waste or incinerated, if they are left to biodegrade, it can take up to 200 years for the process to complete.     
  • Shipping waste is produced by the use of gasoline-powered vehicles to transport garments. Sizing complications leading to eventual returns have amplified this impact.
  • Packaging waste, created by the copious amount of plastics used during the shipping process, inevitably ends up discarded into our oceans directly harming wildlife.
  • The fashion industry’s energy requirements are extensive, this energy is sourced from the burning of coal, oil, and fossil fuels all of which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Sadly, a total of over 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions were released by the global fashion industry in 2019, needless to say, our industry can and needs to do better.

How Do Peak Shopping Seasons Impact Sustainability?

With pandemic-level restrictions only beginning to relax and continued uncertainty in what the future holds, many consumer shopping habits have not changed much since 2020. E-commerce accounts for over 46% of all apparel sales in 2021 as in-person fitting rooms suffer from limited capacity and brands pivot to cater to at-home shoppers. The gargantuan amount of orders being placed online during peak shopping times (like the back-to-school season) have the real potential to cause egregious amounts of waste as garments are discarded and rebought en masse.

To mitigate the carbon impact of these peak shopping seasons, brands must look to areas of the business that can be actively improved to be more sustainable. While certain brands have made wonderful strides in shifting their production strategy to a more sustainable format, it isn’t realistic to expect every clothing brand to adopt these practices. The WAIR Fit Advisor solution is ideal for brands still looking to make a meaningful impact in our journey towards a greener future for our industry and our world. 

How Can Your Brand Make the Shift to Sustainability?

Size optimization is one of the few ways that all brands can take a meaningful step towards sustainability. When brands openly communicate their sizing strategy and equip shoppers with the tools needed to order the right sizes, the result is a substantial reduction in returns and the wastes associated with them.

WAIR's fit advisor in action

WAIR’s Fit Advisor has a proven track record of reducing return rates, driving conversions, and promoting sustainability for e-commerce brands. We leverage AI-driven, 3D technology to align the sizing strategy of brands, with the unique body data of their customers resulting in accurate and personalized size and fit recommendations. We recognize that shopper bodies are unique and that traditional sizing charts have led to frustration and dissatisfaction from online shoppers. Our Fit Advisor tool alleviates these problems by accurately predicting the body measurements of your shoppers and recommending their best fitting size in your products.

How does this relate to sustainability you may ask? When shoppers purchase and keep clothing, textile waste from discarded clothing and shipping waste from returns are greatly reduced. As poor sizing and fit are the number one drivers of clothing returns, one can easily see the benefits focusing on an optimized size strategy would result in. Additionally, the body data collected from shoppers has far-reaching applications, such as revealing individual shopping habits, aligning body data with the shopper’s journey, and much more! When sizing is prioritized from the beginning of the design process, brands can see a decrease in samples created, increased sell-through rates, and a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

In creating the Fit Advisor we remain focused on the shopper’s experience, ensuring the tool is easy to use, secure, and accurate. We do not require shoppers to download anything or take pictures of themselves to obtain a fit recommendation. Instead, we simply ask the shopper a few easy questions about their body type, their answers are filtered through our extensive database of body scans, and we then recommend a size based on how the designer intended the product to fit. The depth of our exclusive database is vast, built atop over 2 million unique body scans captured from real people across the globe. Armed with this unique and exclusive body data, Fit Advisor provides a fitting experience that is simple, seamless, and effective.


E-commerce brands and retailers alike are seeing unprecedented demand for clothing in 2021, driven by the E-commerce brands and retailers alike are seeing unprecedented demand for clothing in 2021, driven by the reopening of society and the back-to-school rush. Look forward to this trend continuing as we progress into the holiday shopping season with many loved ones excited to see family/friends again. While this is great news for the industry, we must remember the potential for excess waste generation during peak shopping months like these.

Shoppers can actively mitigate these harmful effects by choosing brands that offer sustainably made clothing and by minimizing excess purchases to find the right fitting sizes. We are proud to be a tool that empowers brands looking to improve their sustainability efforts by leveraging our powerful body data and prioritizing their sizing strategy from the beginning.

Are you ready to unlock the true potential of your brand with WAIR? Schedule a demo here, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook for all your fashion content needs!