Kayla Marci

February 3, 2021

Veganuary: Strategies for success

In this report, we investigate how vegan assortments have evolved in the COVID era and spotlight the sales-driving categories.

A movement that’s only getting bigger. This year, Veganuary smashed all records with 500,000 participants worldwide pledging to stick to a plant-based diet for the first month of the year. While the food industry is primarily affected, apparel and beauty retailers need to cater to this skyrocketing demographic all year round.

Why? First of all, the global vegan fashion market size is forecasted to reach 1095.6 bln by 2027 – and that’s for womenswear alone. Plus, COVID-19 has been a catalyst for growth of this already-expanding lifestyle. The World Health Organization (WHO) states 60% of all human pathogens and 75% of new or emerging infectious diseases originate from animals. With the outbreak of coronavirus starting at a live trade market, there’s additional demand for vegan alternatives.

Read on as we recap how retailers supported Veganuary in 2021, how to price assortments, as well as the growth of animal-free products in major markets.

Want an exclusive look into the retail data platform that Zara, Puma and Marni use to make more informed decisions? Reach out to an EDITED Retail Specialist today.

Vegan trailblazers

Since 2018, continued growth has been noted in the US and UK. COVID-19 caused a shakeup to arrivals, leading to fewer products in stock across all categories. However, by the end of January, there was a 75% YoY increase in products described as “vegan” stocked in the US and UK vs. 2018.

In the US, this is driven by accessories, which equaled 46% of products stocked. In the UK, footwear is the key category accounting for 40% of items described as “vegan.” With comfort trends reigning supreme throughout a third lockdown, non-leather sneakers and slippers are a core investment. 

While this growth signals the fashion industry’s process of moving away from the use of animal hides in production, there is still the question of scaling sustainable alternatives to vegan products. Following the reimagining of iconic silhouettes such as Samba and Stan Smith in vegan materials, adidas is emerging as the market leader of providing widely-available alternatives to leathers that are both cruelty-free and eco-friendly. The sportswear giant announced it would launch “purely biological” mushroom leather sneakers in partnership with material solutions company, Bolt Threads. This news is in line with EDITED’s Sustainability in 2021 report as we stated that mushroom leather will become more commercial this year.

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All eyes turn to Paris, which is poised to become the sustainable capital of fashion by 2024. With its focus on innovations for environmentally-friendly materials and sourcing, we can expect to see significant strides made in this area over the next three years. Established in this space, France saw a 112% increase in products described as “vegan” compared to two years prior.

Another market to keep on your radar is Denmark. Outside of the region’s effortless Scandi style, Denmark is home to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the world’s leading business event on sustainability in fashion. Additionally, Copenhagen Fashion Week published its first annual sustainability report noting that to take part in the event by 2023, brands will have to meet a set of criteria and receive a minimum points score in a sustainability survey. From the recent shows, SKALL Studios’ small-scale production and vegan approach solidified it as a brand to watch. In the Danish market, EDITED tracked a 152% increase in products described as “vegan” compared to two years prior, a number expected to rise following the mass cullings of mink in this country due to a mutated COVID strain. 

What’s luxury’s role in all this?

Animal fur on the runway has become somewhat of a relic with designers such as Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Versace and Victoria Beckham vowing to keep their catwalks faux. This cohort sets an example for the rest of the industry to follow. In the US, faux fur at luxury brands has grown 4% over the past three months YoY. 

Despite the luxury market becoming more anti-fur, leather and skins are still prominent in this sector and synonymous with designers such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton who have built their legacy on leather goods. Analyzing 18 own-brand luxury retailers sites spanning the US and UK market, EDITED tracked 352 products made with exotic skins in stock vs. 245 a year ago – a 44% increase. 

EDITED analyzed womenswear luxury products currently in stock in the US and UK market described as “vegan”, “non-leather”, “faux leather” and iterations of. These alternatives make up only 3% vs. last year’s 2.3% of women’s leather goods for luxury brands and are driven predominantly by Stella McCartney, who has offered cruelty-free options from brand inception.

While animal products continue to be big business in the luxury market, contemporary luxe brands are providing customers with high-quality animal-free alternatives. Nanushka, Stine Goya and Telfar lead the way for influencer-approved vegan leather, while Shrimps have previously innovated with recycled wool and recycled polyester faux-sheepskin outerwear.

Additionally, consumers may not be as aware of the human and animal welfare involved in the silk trade compared to leather or wool. Organizations like PETA are working to educate the public on the conditions of exploited workers and the controversial process in which the silk fiber is collected from the cocoon by boiling the pupal alive.

While vegan silk isn’t yet as mainstream as vegan leather, cruelty-free alternatives to conventional silk are starting to gain traction. Peace silk is woven from cocoons of the already hatched moth. However, there is currently no certification to guarantee the standard of this alternative. In the US, brands such as Bite Studios and Savannah Morrow The Label within Net-a-Porter’s + NET SUSTAIN collection are stocking products described as containing peace silk. 

A further area of innovation, Stella McCartey experimented with plant-based and lab grown spider silks in the past, while startups such as Cocoon Biotech and Spintex Engineering are working with recycled silks. 

Cupro is emerging as a cruelty-free alternative to silk. Already a mainstay for lining and trim, cupro is a waste product of cotton that maintains the sheen, hand feel and drape of silk. Cupro has seen a rise within luxury and premium retailers in the US market. Over the past three months, products available online described as containing “100% cupro” (including in the lining and trim) increased 32% YoY.

The price tag

While 100% leather goods are coveted for their premium status and high-quality, animal-free alternatives come with a competitive price tag. 

We compare the full price of leather versus non-leather products stocked in the US mass market at the end of January. In every category, vegan leather is the cheaper alternative.

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Interestingly, outerwear comes in at more than four times more expensive, driven up by Banana Republic’s 100% haircalf leather coat with an average advertised price of $1,498.00. This retailer is among those offering both vegan and non-vegan products, catering to various market segments.

Check out the price comparison of these mass market styles.

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The conversation

• The first mention for Veganuary 2021 was two days later than the previous year. Superdrug spotlighted a vegan beauty event to promote the event on December 30th. 

• Footwear and beauty were the core categories associated with Veganuary promotions as seen at Feel Unique, Superdry, Office and Beauty Bay. Missguided also launched a timely vegan beauty line this month. 

• Across VM channels in January, mentions of “vegan” and “Veganuary” increased by 16% YoY.

• Don’t just stick to non-leather goods in Veganuary edits – incorporate wool and silk alternatives as long as they’re environmentally-friendly. 

• With no end in sight to the unstable pandemic economy, future-proof your 2022 Veganuary communications by promoting products at entry-level price points to appeal to consumers’ tightened purse strings following the festive period. 

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