A Critical evaluation into the role of ethics in clothing purchase decisions.

This source preferred by Jeffery Bray

Authors: Bray, J.P.


Consumer awareness and interest in ethical issues is growing with sustained and significant rises in sales of ethical products (L. Vickery (personal communication, January 12, 2007); The Co-operative Bank 2010); despite this, little research has been conducted into how ethical factors affect consumers’ choices. The clothing sector accounts for over 12% of UK retail expenditure (Office for National Statistics 2011a), and a wide range of potential ethical issues are present within the industry including very low wages paid throughout the supply chain, poor working conditions and the extensive use of chemicals leading to long term injuries and deaths (World Trade Organisation 2008). Given the importance of the clothing sector, the significance of ethical issues in clothing manufacture and supply, and the recent growth in consumer interest in ethical issues, research in this area is both necessary and timely. A conceptual framework developed from a comprehensive evaluation of the literature examining consumer behaviour, ethical decision-making, and clothing selection is presented, and informed a sequential mixed methods primary research strategy. Indepth, semi-structured interviews and focus groups were used to inductively probe the research area before exploring the possible relationships using a quantitative survey (n=384) distributed to a random sample of the UK population.

The research found that the boycotting of brands, stores or products for ethical reasons is important to some consumers. Ethical indicators provided influence in guiding final purchase decisions, and post-purchase reflection on items purchased may trigger positive or negative emotions depending on the product’s perceived ethical credentials. Survey data verified these relationships, measuring their importance in clothing purchase decisions. Results also show that while ethical factors are secondary to most consumers, they exert a clear influence on decisions in some situations. Female respondents were found to be more sensitive to ethical issues and those with higher household incomes likely to be less strongly influenced. The key findings from the study are synthesised into a theoretical model which provides a clear account of the role of ethical considerations in clothing purchase decision-making. This research provides the first thorough examination of ethics within the purchase of clothing. Given the scale of the clothing industry, the findings are of significant academic and commercial interest.

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