Oliver Knoch

Repair or not Repair? That's not a question (anymore)

Repairing clothing, shoes and accessories is not a revolutionary new service in the sports and outdoor sector. But the more sustainability and the circular economy come into focus, the more brands and retailers are offering repair services - and making customers very happy.

Garments are repaired at Rab and Lowe's

Ancient sweatshirts, trail running shorts, shoes, travel bags, backpacks ... The list of products that visitors* will find at OutDoor by ISPO in the Worn Wear Tiny House by Patagonia is almost longer than the trade show's exhibitor list. "We've made some people happy here," says Mick Austermühle. Patagonia has been touring Europe with its Worn Wear repairs since 2013, visiting trade shows, events and festivals. "Many bring us their favorite item, which has precious memories attached to it."

This is how the Patagonia Country Manager Germany & Austria describes what is probably the greatest advantage of repair services for brands: customer loyalty. Few things are as charged with positive emotions as an item that has accompanied the wearer through countless adventures. A brand that saves the life of this material piece of memory digs deep into the owner's heart.

No wonder that this is also taken up again and again in advertising. For example Fjällräven for example, writes about the history of a 43-year-old backpack, and Deuter has even dedicated an entire campaign to its favorite items under #deuterforever. Background: In 2020, Deuter made 2,185 repairs in Germany alone.

Mammut has also published figures on its repair service, which the Swiss brand has been offering since 1992. Worldwide, Mammut repairs around 16,000 products annually. On the one hand in the two repair workshops in Germany and Switzerland, and on the other through an established network of local repair workshops and third-party providers. Replacing zippers is the most common repair. "If you compare the environmental impact of repairing items with buying new products, our workshops save almost 375,000 kg of CO2 and 3,000,000 liters of water annually," states the Mammut sustainability report.

Disposable culture is changing

Repairing has been a trend for quite some time: in 2009, Martine Postma organized the very first Repair Café. In the meantime, there are almost 2,800 offshoots all over the world where people come together and repair things, most of which no longer have any material value worth mentioning. Growing environmental awareness and increasing sensitivity in dealing with resources support this development. This is also demonstrated by the approximately 96,000 repair instructions that are now available on the platform platform - from a defective microwave to a torn down jacket. Some sports brands, such as VAUDE, also provide tutorials there.

Almost all brands join in

For some repairs, especially for shoes and textiles, consumers quickly reach their limits. Either special tools or materials are required or there is simply a lack of experience. That's why more and more companies are offering post-warranty repairs under varying conditions. According to a recent study by the European Outdoor Group, which was presented at OutDoor by ISPO 2023, almost all of the 69 brands surveyed already offer repair services (76%) or plan to offer them (19%). The few brands that were negative about repairs mostly justified this with the costs or the complicated logistics.

Repair services - 5 benefits for brands

  1. Customer loyalty: Customers who have their garments repaired have an emotional connection to the products and are more likely to buy from the company again.
  2. Sustainability: Repair services extend the life of products. This reduces resource consumption and environmental impact.
  3. Differentiation: In the highly competitive sports industry, offering or refusing repair services can be a competitive advantage or disadvantage.
  4. Additional revenue stream: If a company promotes the service well and builds a good reputation, repair services can generate additional revenue.
  5. Image and reputation: A company that offers repair services is perceived as quality-conscious, responsible and customer-oriented.
Around the globe things are repaired

Retailers also use repair offers to retain customers and boost sales - and that even applies to online-only retailers. According to eCommerce Report by creativestyle almost 50 percent of Germany's largest online stores in the sports and outdoor industry already offer this service.

And it pays off, as the "Sustainability Consumer Monitor: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair" shows. According to the study, which was prepared by IFH Cologne on behalf of the HDE trade association, the spending volume for repair services of nonfood products in Germany has increased from EUR 3.3 billion in 2019 to EUR 3.7 billion in 2022 (extrapolation). This corresponds to an average annual growth rate of 3.0%. The repair services for bicycles developed particularly strongly.

Repair services - 5 advantages for retailers

  1. Customer loyalty: Customers who can have their defective products repaired feel valued and well looked after. This leads to stronger customer loyalty and a positive image for the retailer.
  2. Increased sales: Paid repair services lead directly to increased sales. In addition, they can influence customers to consciously choose that retailer because they value the convenience and reliability of a repair service.
  3. Differentiation: In the highly competitive sports industry, offering or refusing repair services can be a competitive advantage or disadvantage.
  4. Customer traffic and cross-selling: Customers who bring their products in for repair have to enter the store or go to the online store and can make other purchases in the meantime. This provides cross-selling opportunities for the retailer.
  5. Image and reputation: Retailers who offer repair services are perceived as quality-conscious, responsible and customer-oriented.
The camp at Jack Wolfskin

The number of repairs is still manageable and relatively easy for brands to trade. But with more acceptance, this will change and a professionalization of the processes will be necessary. Equip Outdoor with the brands Rab and Lowe Alpine has therefore already opened four service centers in Canada, the USA, Great Britain and the Netherlands. There, the company also offers a "second stitch", where only recycled fabrics and offcuts are used for repairs. This saves even more resources and the partly contrasting fabrics and trimmings finally turn the favorite pieces into absolutely unique items.

Patagonia also repairs clothes not only at OutDoor by ISPO, but since 2022 together with other textile companies at the United Repair Center (URC) in Amsterdam - a project that puts socially disadvantaged people in particular to work. Willem Swager, Director of Finance & Operations EMEA at Patagonia, says: "The textile industry needs a structural change. That's why we're calling for reuse and longer wear of clothing through repair and recycling. It needs to become commonplace for more brands to offer this as a service and consider it part of their normal business." Or, as the URC homepage puts it, "Repair is the new cool!"

Share article
Oliver Knoch