The Bag Charge: Good for the global environment, detrimental to the fashion retail environment?

IFFTI 2019

Paper 87

Carly Wraeg
& Ruth Sanderson

Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

The Bag Charge: Good for the global environment, detrimental to the fashion retail environment?

The use of plastic is growing in importance for societal, sustainable and environmental debate. Since the 5p plastic bag charge was introduced in England on 5th October 2015 single use plastic bags sales have fallen by 86 per cent. This has had an impact on the high street as consumers choose to use ‘bags for life’ rather than the branded carrier bag. Classed as secondary packaging, these bags have historically provided prime advertising space for fashion retailers and brands, serving to not only carry product, but the retailer or brand message. With a high street that is in a state of flux and decline at numerous levels across the industry, this paper seeks to identify the possible impact on both retail practice and consumer behaviour.

In light of the challenging issues currently facing the fashion industry, the physical shopping experience has been gaining momentum in importance. In order to entice the online shopper back into store, retail theatre and service are key strategies to achieve this. The experience of observing the purchase being wrapped in branded paraphernalia, to then enjoy the unwrapping of the goods once home, has become an integral part of the consumer post-purchase evaluation.

The academic literature surrounding the impact of the loss of this ‘free advertisement’ opportunity is severely lacking. However, there is growing interest in the phenomena referred to as ‘unboxing,’ increasingly present on social media platforms. It is argued that such activities have seen secondary packaging, such as branded carrier bags become integral to status and peer influencing.

This exploratory study adopts a qualitative research approach, utilising semi-structured interviews with key retailers and consumer focus groups. The chosen methodological approach will provide great insight into this under investigated phenomenon.

Carly Wraeg

Carly Wraeg has been a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University for fourteen years and specialises in fast fashion, promotion and marketing. She has undertaken many roles, most recently as programme leader for the International Fashion Promotion degree programme, where she developed a real interest in the role that branded packaging plays for the retailer and the impact on the consumer.

A self-confessed shopaholic, Carly has a great deal of experience in this area and her first-hand knowledge of the high street has been of great benefit for this research paper.

Ruth Sanderson

Ruth Sanderson is a senior lecturer, currently working on the level 3 Foundation Degree, leading the Fashion Design and Technology pathway. With over twelve years teaching experience, she has developed and delivered design curriculum to fashion and promotion students on a variety of degree programmes, with a specific focus on drawing techniques, branding and creative direction.

As an advocate for beautiful packaging and a lover of unwrapping new purchases, Ruth has been able to put her ‘shopping experience’ to good use for the purpose of this research paper.