What Big Retailers Don’t Want You to Know: What is Planned Obsolescence?

30 items of clothing, 7 pairs of shoes, 2 bags

I know, I know. It’s nearly Christmas and it’s not a great time to be negative, but this is my last warning for the year, I promise! The holiday season is the busiest part of the retail calendar, and before you go out there to take advantage of the sales, it’s really helpful to be mindful of the way the retail industry works.

Planned obsolescence is the idea that some manufacturers create products with an intentionally limited lifespan. When something is ‘obsolete’, it is no longer useful. This often applies to electronics, but it is also apparent in the production of fast fashion items. The rationale behind the strategy is to encourage customers to replace older products within a shorter period of time, thus driving the retail industry.

One excellent way that you can avoid supporting this trend is by being aware of which businesses are involved in this cycle, and stop supporting them. Last year I wrote about my ‘banned brands’ list. This list was composed of five fast fashion brands that I no longer shop at. I wrote the list because I encountered a lot of long term disappointment with the quality of clothing from these brands, and decided not to support them anymore.

If you are one who enjoys the Boxing Day sales, do yourself a favour, and create a ‘banned brands’ list of your own before you head out. Will the items from these brand be on sale? Yes. Will they last the distance? Unlikely. They might be useful for a while, but due to poor quality control inherent in mass production and exploitative labour practices, they are not a worthy investment. You might say these brands do not reflect the True Cost of clothing manufacture. You will find that they won’t survive very long in your wardrobe.

IMG_8132Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 9.06.46 AM

Below is my video on Planned Obsolescence. Check out my YouTube channel for new videos about minimalism every week. Follow me on Instagram, where I record my minimalist outfits. Check me out on Facebook for resources and updates. I also have a Patreon account, where for a small donation you can view additional content.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Please take care of yourselves this holiday season!



  1. Great post! I think I read once that when Henry Ford first started making cars, he built them to last until someone pointed out that he wouldn’t make much money unless they needed to be replaced (or words to that effect)…maybe that was the start of the corruption. Our culture seems to be one of fleeting gratification gained from owning the latest gadget or suchlike. It all seems rather shallow doesn’t it? I love the idea of banning certain brands…at present I’m trying not to buy things containing unsustainable palm oil and do my bit for the rainforest. I guess if we all make a stand against companies that behave irresponsibly in different ways then perhaps we can make change happen.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi there, that’s a very timely and mindful post. I hadn’t realised that there was actually a term for this practice – just shows how calculating the retail industry can be sometimes. I hope you have a happy and peaceful Christmas and every best wish for 2018 – sincere thanks to you for your wonderful posts and videos throughout the year – you are truly one of my biggest inspirations. I hope your blog and channel continue to flourish next year. Lxxx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. While I’ve thought about this concept, I didn’t know it had a name! I’m guilty of participating in the “fast fashion” on certain occasions, and have always paid the price for it. As I’ve grown up, I’ve made more of a “go to” list of stores that DO last and create quality pieces. That way when I’m shopping for something specific (like new work clothes I’d like to last a while) I know where to go. Thanks for finally putting a term to this feeling.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for the tips!!! I often buy something knowing that it isn’t the best quality just because I like the price. It sounds like a good idea at first but I end up spending more money because I have to go back and replace things when I could have just made one initial investment in something that would last longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This happened with appliances about 15 years ago. This is why every so often when we have a client that has a 30 year old refrigerator in the garage ( yes without climate control) that is still churning we say this very thing. Good design can be timeless with a little effort….we help clients achieve this every day! Merry Christmas! We enjoy your posts and look forward to 2018.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I heard about this concept years ago and it changed how I look at manufacturing and retail. I think it was the start of my cynicism 😛 I try to get out of the cycle by buying second-hand clothing, or getting out of the mainstream brands and supporting independant companies that promote long-lasting workmanship.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sadly, this is nothing new. What we can do, however, is choose to be content with what we already have, and when we really need something, try to buy it secondhand. For example, my towels come from estate sales. You wouldn’t believe how many people used to set aside things for “someday,” and then forgot about them. I have “brand new” towels that are at least 40 years old. I also buy sheets from the 1960s and 1970s, still new in the package. By doing this, we can make good use of things that have already been manufactured, save ourselves money in the process, and often end up with more durable items as a bonus. Merry Christmas, all!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love this post. But like other commenters mentioned, this is old news. I read a book, released in the 50’s, called the Waste Makers, and this is something that’s been going on since before even then(prompting the author to write the book). Kinda nuts that we’ve been dealing with this problem for so long!


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