University of Twente Student Theses


Buy now, cry later : Examining factors influencing “flexible” consumers’ fashion choices and the extent of conflict between ethical intentions and actual consumption choices

Bröcher, Luca Zoe (2022) Buy now, cry later : Examining factors influencing “flexible” consumers’ fashion choices and the extent of conflict between ethical intentions and actual consumption choices.

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Abstract:Objectives: Increasingly aware of environmental and social problems related to the fashion industry, consumers show a growing demand for alternative, more ethical ways of consuming fashion. However, literature states that ethically-minded consumers have difficulties, despite ethical consumption intentions, translating these into actual behavior. Many consumers show 'flexible' consumption patterns by occasionally purchasing ethically (f.e. secondhand) but still sometimes fast fashion. This study explores the dimensions of the attitude-behavior gap of so-called 'flexible consumers' by understanding how fashion-related choices are motivated by ethical considerations and identifying factors blocking ethical consumption intentions. Also, this research analyzed how ethically-minded consumers experience a potential post-purchase conflict due to attitude-behavior discrepancies, what feelings are evoked, and how people resolve this conflict. Method: To achieve the research's aim, qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted. Hence, 19 participants were interviewed who showed 'flexible consumption patterns' by purchasing both secondhand and fast fashion apparel. Through convenience sampling, the sample was composed of 11 women and eight men with an average age of 22, whereby most of them were students with a higher education degree. Results: Data analysis shows that participants were highly aware of ethical considerations in fashion-related choices. However, economic and institutional factors (f.e. price & availability) often block consumers' ethical purchasing intentions. For most participants, the extent of post-purchase conflict was great, resulting in feelings of guilt or regret. The most common method to resolve this conflict was identified as 'future intentions' referring to participants' willingness to change consumer behavior in the future. Also, it was found that when consumers have less belief in their impact, they are likely to deny their responsibility and feel little conflict after an 'unethical' purchase. Conclusion: In conclusion, although 'flexible consumers' show a high level of ethical considerations, they still show attitude-behavior discrepancies as economic and instrumental factors 2 3 are outweighed by ethical considerations. However, if these factors could be minimized, for instance, by providing more affordable secondhand shopping opportunities, ethically minded consumers would often choose the ethical alternative. In this way, they could implement their intention to consume more ethically in the future, reducing conflicting feelings and closing the attitude-behavior gap. Responding to ethical consumers' demand for available and fair-priced ethical products also provides economic advantages to marketers. Also, as a practical implication of this study, corporations should enable consumers to have more transparency about apparel production conditions. Therefore, policymakers are called to introduce laws protecting the environment and people in textile-producing countries. These measures would encourage people to believe in their impact with which they are more likely to consume ethically and will pave the way for more sustainable businesses focusing on ethical and fair production conditions. Keywords: ethical consumption, attitude-behavior gap, secondhand, fast fashion, environmental problems, sustainability
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies BSc (56615)
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