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Retailers Bank on Environmentally-Friendly Clothing for Increased Sales

Many shoppers will shell out a little more money if they know a product, especially clothing, is environmentally friendly, market researchers report. Major retailers like J.C. Penney, H&M, and Target are increasingly tapping into that consciousness with fashion lines made from recycled fabrics. But the catch is that the prices still need to be competitive with non-recycled garments to appeal to eco-minded consumers.

When the consumer behavior research firm America’s Research Group polled 1,000 Millennials earlier this year, they found that 38% would “respond positively” to environmentally friendly products and would pay 3% more for them on average, the Associated Press reported. In May, Unilever published results from market research in five countries that found a third of adult consumers are choosing brands they believe are sustainable.

This fall, J.C. Penney plans to introduce three styles of its Arizona brand jeans made with 20% polyester that comes from recycled plastic bottles. “Value is important to the J.C. Penney customer,” spokeswoman Sarah Holland told the Associated Press recently. “We knew the jeans had to be affordable.” The jeans will cost $36 to $42 apiece, she said.

Several years ago, H&M began introducing denim products made from recycled cotton. Currently the company sells jeans made from recycled fabric that are priced in the same $29.99 – $49.99 range as their other jeans.

Since 2015, Target has been partnered with Repreve, a recycled fiber brand made from materials like plastic bottles using a proprietary process. From July 2016 to April 2017, Target recycled nearly 250 million bottles this way, Julie Guggemos, Target’s senior vice president of product design and development told CBS Minnesota. Tags at Target say “responsible style” and “better for all” and have information about how much Repreve content is in the clothes, the Associated Press reported.

Sustainable apparel and “circular fashion” are on the rise, even though the cost of recycling materials to make new clothing can exceed that of traditional fiber manufacturing processes. Recently Levi Strauss & Co. announced that it would put $350,000 in funding toward apparel supply chain innovation. In addition, this year European fashion retailer C&A came out with a line of 100% organic cotton Cradle To Cradle T-shirts designed to be reused, recycled or composted at the end of their useful lives.

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