In autumn 2021, WRAP commissioned two large scale pieces of online consumer research on the life expectancy of different items of clothing in UK wardrobes and the UK’s appetite for adopting new models of clothing acquisition – some of which discard the notion of owning clothes all together.

The first piece of research looked at the estimated longevity for a wide range of clothing items and how these estimates are influenced by key factors like demographics, acquisition route and in-use behaviours. The research led to insights about a total of 44,807 items of clothing in the UK – the largest audit of clothing WRAP has ever undertaken. Where replicable, the estimates from the study provide an update on WRAP's last comprehensive piece of consumer research on clothing longevity conducted in 2013.

The second piece of research explored current citizen behaviours and receptivity to five circular business models for clothing in the UK, including: subscription, rental, preloved, upcycled and repair.

The findings from the two studies have been compiled into a two-part citizen insights report which is available to download below.

Key findings:

  • Compared to research conducted in 2013, the predicted length of time UK citizens are keeping a range of clothing items has increased. 
  • When we buy preloved and second-hand vintage, we tend to keep these items longer than those we purchase new - nearly a year and a half longer at 5.4 years for vintage and preloved clothes, compared to 4 years for off the peg. While repairing clothing was found to extend an item's lifespan by a further 1.3 years.
  • Despite this, almost 23% of people in the UK say they regularly buy clothing with the intention of using it for a short amount of time.
  • This is reflected in the number of unworn items in UK wardrobes – with the average person in the UK owning 118 items of clothing (including underwear, socks and hosiery), of which just over a quarter (26%) have not been used in the past year.
  • In the UK, recognition and levels of use/purchase for circular business models is currently low. However, the groups most receptive to these circular business models are exactly the ones that we need to focus on – consumers who buy more, spend more and shop more frequently.

The research concluded that among other key opportunities, there is a potential mainstream market for circular business models in the UK. With two in five (40%) UK citizens saying they are likely to use a subscription service, increasing to three in five (58%) for a repair service. Furthermore, among those who have already engaged with a circular business model (or similar), the majority say they would do so again.

WRAP’s voluntary agreement for the UK Textiles sector, Textiles 2030, is supporting businesses to integrate circular business models into their core offering and reap the environmental benefits from this transition, among other key priorities. Find out more about the voluntary agreement by emailing

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  • Citizen Insights: Clothing Longevity and Circular Business Models Receptivity in the UK.pdf

    PDF, 1.71 MB