A group of students walking through the hallway of a school

Peak Shopping Seasons and Sustainability

It's been a breakout year for apparel sales as demand surges, driven by the back-to-school rush. Here's how brands can benefit sustainably.

Thus far, 2021 is looking to be a significant rebound year for the apparel industry, coming from the pandemic-related squeeze of last year. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Retail Sales Report for July revealed that apparel 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 when climate change is at a critical tipping point, what is your brand doing to operate sustainably amidst the chaos?

The Real Ramifications of Apparel Industry-Related Waste

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

A woman buying sustainable clothing for back-to-school

Exponential demand and high turnover rates for apparel have increased the carbon footprint of its manufacture, as well as the amount of overall textile waste in our landfills. 

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 created by the use of gasoline-powered vehicles to transport products. The recent surge in eCommerce activity and size confusion from online shoppers has led to increased return rates amplifying this impact.

Packaging wastes are created through the copious amounts of plastics used during the packaging process. These plastics inevitably end up discarded into our oceans, directly harming wildlife.

The apparel 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 apparel 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, shopping habits have not changed much since 2020. eCommerce 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) has the real potential to cause egregious amounts of waste as products 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 some brands have made wonderful strides in shifting their production strategy to a more sustainable format, it isn’t realistic to expect every apparel brand to adopt these practices. WAIR's sizing solution is ideal for brands 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 any brand can take a meaningful step towards sustainability. When brands openly communicate their sizing strategy and equip shoppers with the tools needed to order their best-fitting products, the result is a reduction in the likelihood of returns and the waste associated with them.

A long sleeve shirt being purchased for back-to-school

WAIR reduces the likelihood of size-related returns, drives conversions, and promotes sustainability for eCommerce apparel brands. We leverage AI-driven, 3D technology to align the sizing strategy of brands with the unique body data of their shoppers, resulting in accurate and personalized size and fit recommendations. We recognize that shopper bodies are unique and that traditional size charts have led to continued frustration and dissatisfaction. Our solution alleviates these problems by accurately predicting the body dimensions of shoppers and recommending their best-fitting sizes 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. With size confusion being the number one driver of apparel returns, one can easily see the benefits of an optimized sizing strategy. Additionally, the body data WAIR collects 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 significant decrease in samples created, increased sell-through rates, and a drastically reduced carbon footprint.

In creating our solution, WAIR remained focused on the shopper’s experience, ensuring the solution was 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 3 million unique body scans captured from real people across the globe. Armed with this unique and exclusive body data, WAIR provides a fitting experience that is simple, seamless, and effective.


eCommerce apparel brands are seeing unprecedented demand 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 apparel industry, we must remember the potential for excess waste generation during peak shopping months like these.

We are proud to be a solution 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!

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