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International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

Fast-fashion consumers’ post-purchase behaviours


Hyun-Mee Joung,
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Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 42 Issue: 8, pp.688-697, https://doi.org/10.1108/
IJRDM-03-2013-0055
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IJRDM
42,8
Fast-fashion consumers’
post-purchase behaviours
Hyun-Mee Joung
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School of Family, Consumer, and Nutrition Sciences,


688 Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA
Received 5 March 2013
Revised 5 April 2013 Abstract
15 August 2013
2 October 2013 Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore fast-fashion consumers’ post-purchase behaviours and
Accepted 14 February 2014 examine relationships among fast-fashion purchase, disposing, hoarding, participation in recycling,
and environmental attitudes.
Design/methodology/approach – A survey questionnaire was developed and a total of 335 college
students completed it in a classroom setting. Of the data collected, 274 students who purchased
fast-fashions were used for this study. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the data and
Pearson correlations were conducted to examine relationships among the variables.
Findings – Results of Pearson correlations indicated that fast-fashion purchase was positively related to
disposing and hoarding, but negatively related to participation in recycling. Apparel hoarding was
positively related to recycling, but no relationships were found between environmental attitudes and any
of the following: fast-fashion purchase, disposing, hoarding, or participation in recycling.
Practical implications – Fast-fashion suppliers should encourage consumers’ participation in
recycling and should take responsibility for collecting their post-purchase products.
Originality/value – This paper provides important contributions to the literature about fashion
retailing/marketing and post-purchase behaviours. Although young fashion-oriented consumers easily
purchase and dispose of trendy and cheap fast-fashions, little is known about their post-purchase
behaviours. Findings of this study showed that fast-fashion consumers had positive attitudes towards
the environment, yet they did not participate in recycling. The finding implies that fast-fashion
suppliers need to develop a culture to support sustainability of consumption.
Keywords Sustainability, Recycling, Apparel hoarding, Environmental attitudes, Fast-fashion
Paper type Research paper

Introduction
A fashion refers to a style (e.g. clothing, shoes, and handbags) that is widely accepted by
a group of consumers at a given time. Acceptance of a style follows a life cycle comprising
three stages: introduction, acceptance, and regression (Sproles, 1979; Kaiser, 1990).
A style is accepted by a small number of consumers in the introduction stage and
becomes popularly accepted by large numbers of the population in the acceptance stage.
In the regression stage, it gradually disappears and becomes obsolete. The longevity of
a fashion may range from a few weeks to decades; a style may stay long or quickly
disappear from the market.
In recent years, the apparel industry has shortened the life cycle of a fashion by
adopting a fast-fashion business strategy (Barnes and Lea-Greenwood, 2010; Cachon and
Swinney, 2011). According to Doeringer and Crean (2006), a life cycle of fast-fashion is
a month or less. Due to globalization and technology development, the apparel industry
International Journal of Retail & is able to use cheap resources such as materials and labour anywhere in the world.
Distribution Management Further, it is able to reduce the time cycles from production to consumption. A goal of this
Vol. 42 No. 8, 2014
pp. 688-697 business strategy is to get apparel into stores within the shortest time possible (Barnes
r Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0959-0552
and Lea-Greenwood, 2006). It allows consumers to take advantages of the newest styles
DOI 10.1108/IJRDM-03-2013-0055 available at the lowest prices.
Fast-fashion retailers (e.g. Zara, H&M, Topshop, etc.) produce inexpensive knockoffs of Consumers’
the most updated high-end fashion and deliver them to consumers every few weeks post-purchase
instead of every fashion season (Bhardwaj and Fairhurst, 2010; Bianchi and Birtwistle,
2010; Byun and Sternquist, 2011). Because of trendiness and cheap prices, consumers behaviours
purchase fast-fashions impulsively and purchase more than ever before. According to
Barnes and Lea-Greenwood (2010), today, because of easy availability of media and
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magazines covering fashion news, catwalk styles, and celebrity looks, consumers are 689
increasingly interested in fashion and appearance, desire newness and variety, and shop
frequently. Regardless of the economic downturn in recent years, fast-fashion retailing has
grown significantly (Hansen, 2012). For example, in the last five years, Inditex (Zara),
based in Spain, experienced 47 per cent sales growth and became the world’s largest
fashion retailer. The success of fast-fashions is evidenced by the fact that even US
department stores (e.g. J C Penny) have adopted the business strategy, adding fast-fashion
brands (e.g. MNG Mango) (Retail Industry, 2012). According to American Apparel &
Footwear Association (AAFA, 2012), 19.4 billion garments with a retail value of 283.7
billion dollars were sold in 2011 in the USA. On average, an individual consumer spent
$910 and purchased more than 62 garments in 2011.
Although there are no data available for how long a consumer keeps clothing,
consumers stop wearing cheap clothing because of low quality or new fashion
trends, or because clothes were bought for a one-time event (Birtwistle and Moore,
2007; Morgan and Birtwistle, 2009). In a study of the sustainability clothing market
(Goworek et al., 2012), participants of a focus group interview noted that when
garments are cheap and made of poor quality, they throw away used clothing.
According to Chau (2012), fast-fashion creates a wasteful culture. Because such
apparel is made of cheap materials, it is not uncommon for shoppers to wear them
once or twice before discarding them. Sometimes, it is not even a choice, because the
garments are so poorly made that they fall apart after a single wearing. Fast-fashions are
sold and made to be worn fewer than ten times (McAfee et al., 2004), and are even called
disposable fashions. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, high fashion with a low price was
called “throwaway market” in the UK (Tokatli et al., 2008). Now this market is referred to
as “fast-fashion”. In the years between 2003 and 2008, the UK experienced 330 per cent
textile waste growth due to fast-fashions (Santi, 2008). Similarly, a report indicated that
individual American consumers throw away, on average, more than 68 pounds of clothing
each year (Claudio, 2007).
Consumers dispose of unwanted clothing in many ways, such as donations,
drop-off, resale, swap, pass-on, reuse, and throwaway. Researchers have identified factors
related to clothing disposal behaviours and found that consumers resell unwanted
clothing for monetary gains, donate to help others, reuse to save materials, and discard for
convenience and unavailability of recycling information ( Jacobs and Bailey, 1982; Shim,
1995; Koch and Domina, 1999; Domina and Koch, 2002; Joung and Park-Poaps, 2013).
In a study of used clothing donation behaviour, Ha-Brookshire and Hodges (2009) found
that consumers donated used clothing to create space in the closet and to alleviate feelings
of guilt which came from purchasing clothing that was rarely worn, and from past
purchase mistakes. Further, attitudes towards general waste recycling (e.g. paper,
glass, plastic, etc.) have explained clothing disposing behaviours such as reuse, resale,
passing-on to family and friends, and donation to charities (Shim, 1995; Bianchi and
Birtwistle, 2010; Goworek et al., 2012). Morgan and Birtwistle (2009) found that
consumers who had habits of recycling glass, plastic, and paper were more likely to
donate unwanted clothing to a charity.
IJRDM Clothing disposal is related to the environment. Although almost 100 per cent of
42,8 textiles are recyclable, Americans threw away 13.1 million tons of textiles in 2010,
of which more than 11 million tons were dumped in landfills (EPA, 2012). Environmental
concerns have led researchers to pay attention to consumers’ environmental attitudes,
concerns, and awareness and have examined their effects on clothing disposal behaviours.
Studies have found that consumers who have positive attitudes towards the environment
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690 participate in clothing recycling such as resale, donation, or reuse (Shim, 1995; Morgan
and Birtwistle, 2009; Joung and Park-Poaps, 2013) and passing on to family and friends
(Bianchi and Birtwistle, 2011). Discarding behaviour, though, was negatively related to
environmental attitudes (Shim, 1995).
In the study of clothing disposal behaviours, researchers have included fashion
leaders regarding recycling behaviours and environmental attitudes. Fashion leaders
are the first group of consumers who adopt a new style and influence other consumers
for adopting the style (Sproles, 1979). Because of the role they are playing in the fashion
market, researchers have studied fashion leaders’ disposal behaviours. For example,
Bianchi and Birtwistle (2010) compared clothing disposal behaviours of fashion leaders
in Australia and Scotland. They found that while fashion innovators in Scotland did
not participate in recycling such as resale, giveaway to family and friends, or donation
to charities, those in Australia disposed of unwanted clothing by giving away to family
and friends. Morgan and Birtwistle (2009) examined fashion leadership regarding
general recycling behaviours and found no relationship between general recycling
behaviours and fashion leadership. Koch and Domina (1997) also focused on fashion
leaders and examined effects of fashion leadership on environmental attitudes and
textile recycling behaviours. They found that fashion leadership was not related to
environmental attitudes or textile recycling behaviours.
In addition to disposing of them, consumers also keep unwanted clothing. Of the
clothing in a closet, most consumers wear 20-30 per cent of them. The rest are disposed
of or stay in the closet. It has been suggested that any clothing that is not worn
for a year should leave the house (Treasures, 2012); however, it has been estimated
that 21 per cent of annual clothing purchases stay in the home (Claudio, 2007). Bye and
McKinney (2007) investigated reasons for keeping clothes that do not fit by interviewing
women ages 35-65 years. Findings indicated that women kept clothing because of
investment value (“I paid good money for it”), weight management (“I keep thinking I’ll
lose the weight”), sentimental value (“it reminds me of a lovely time”), and aesthetic
object (“I just really love it”). It has been noted that consumers who had rarely worn
expensive items tended to hold on to them because they experienced guilt about
disposing of them (Birtwistle and Moore, 2007; Morgan and Birtwistle, 2009).
Consumers may keep apparel products even though they do not wear or use them
due to hoarding tendencies. Hoarding is defined as the “acquisition of, and failure to
discard, possessions which appear to be useless or of limited value” (Frost and Gross,
1993, p. 367). Hoarders are likely to be compulsive buyers and frequent purchasers
(Frost et al., 1998). Studies have found that compulsive buyers are interested in fashion
and frequently buy fashion items ( Johnson and Attmann, 2009). Little is known,
however, about fast-fashion consumers’ post-purchase behaviours regarding apparel
hoarding and disposing.
For this study, college students were studied. Fast-fashion is designed to target
young consumers who want trendy, short-cycle, and inexpensive clothing (Barnes and
Lea-Greenwood, 2006; Doeringer and Crean, 2006). It is believed that trendy and cheap
fast-fashions are easily adopted by college students, because they have limited
financial resources, and wearing fashionable and socially visible clothing plays an Consumers’
important role in socializing at this stage in the life cycle (Yalkin and Elliott, 2006). post-purchase
As noted earlier, the fast-fashion market is growing significantly and fast-fashion is
easily adopted and quickly becomes obsolete. Yet little is known about what happens behaviours
to fast-fashion items when consumers no longer want or need them. The aim of this
study was to explore the post-purchase behaviours of fast-fashion consumers, with
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specific emphasis on disposing, hoarding, and participation in recycling. Consumers 691


who perceive that fast-fashion is fashionable, cheap, and made of low quality are likely
to throw away unwanted items, which end up in landfills. Because such discarding
behaviour adversely affects the environment, the relationship of environmental
attitudes to post-purchase behaviours was examined.

Methods
A self-administered survey questionnaire was developed to measure fast-fashion
purchase, disposing, hoarding, participation in recycling, environmental attitudes,
and demographics. For a measurement of fast-fashion purchase, a yes/no item was
developed; “I purchase apparel products in stores that carry fast-fashion brands (e.g.
H&M, Foreever21, ZARA, Topshop, Gap, etc.)”. To measure amount of apparel product
purchase, a single item was developed; “Approximately how many items of apparel
products do you purchase a year?” and the respondents answered on a ten-point scale
with 5-apparel item intervals (1 ¼ fewer than 5 items, 2 ¼ 5-9 items, y, 10 ¼ 45 or more
items). For a measurement of apparel disposing, a question asked “How many items of
apparel products do you dispose of in a year?” For a measurement of apparel hoarding,
ten items reflecting time for organizing apparel, investment value, usability, and fit
were generated and measured on a five-point Likert scale (1 ¼ strongly disagree,
5 ¼ strongly agree). Examples of the item were “I don’t want to get rid of apparel products
that were expensive” and “I keep apparel products that are still in good condition (lack of
wear or damage) even though I don’t use them”. To measure participation in apparel
recycling, eight items reflecting donation, reuse, pass-on, resale, swap, and throw away
were developed. Examples include “I donate my outdated/used/unwanted apparel
products to thrift stores (e.g. Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other organizations, etc.)” and
“I reuse my outdated/used/unwanted apparel products for other purposes (e.g. rag, quilts,
etc.)”. All items were measured on a five-point Likert scale (1 ¼ never, 5 ¼ very often).
For a measurement of environmental attitude, a five-item scale (a ¼ 0.81) developed by
Shim (1995) was used. An example of an item was, “Environmental issues are very
important to me”. All items were measured using a five-point Likert scale (1 ¼ strongly
disagree, 5 ¼ strongly agree).

Results
Descriptive statistics employing IBM SPSS version 20 was utilized to summarize
constructs and demographics. Principal component analyses with a varimax rotation
method were conducted on multiple items measuring apparel hoarding, participation
in recycling, and environmental attitudes. Pearson correlations were employed to
analyse relationships among apparel purchase, hoarding, disposing behaviour, and
environmental attitudes.
Results of the factor analysis indicated that of the ten items measuring apparel
hoarding, seven loaded on a single factor with a reliability coefficient of a ¼ 0.84, thus
named value-oriented hoarding (see Table I). For participation in recycling, of the
eight items, six loaded on a single factor with a reliability coefficient of a ¼ 0.63,
IJRDM Factor % of a
42,8 Factor labels loading Eigenvalue variance coefficient

Value-oriented hoarding 3.96 39.59 0.84


I do not want to get rid of apparel products that were
expensive 0.78
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692 I do not want to get rid of apparel products that are


made of high-quality materials (e.g. silk, cashmere,
wool, genuine leather, etc.). 0.75
I do not want to get rid of apparel products because
I like the brand 0.75
I keep apparel products that are considered to be
attractive or beautiful even though I do not use them 0.74
I keep apparel products that are still in good
condition (lack of wear or damage) even though I do
not use them 0.66
I do not want to get rid of apparel products that help
me remember important life events 0.63
I have some apparel products that they may come
back into style 0.61
Participation in recycling 2.82 28.53 0.63
I swap my outdated/used/unwanted apparel
products with my family members and friends 0.70
I reuse my outdated/used/unwanted apparel
products for other purposes (e.g. rags, quilts, etc.) 0.63
I use recycling web sites (e.g. “freecycle.org”) to make
my outdated/used/unwanted apparel products
available to others for free 0.61
I resell my outdated/used/unwanted apparel
products through consignment shops, eBay,
garage(yard) sales, etc. 0.55
I pass on my outdated/used/unwanted apparel
products to my family and friends 0.53
I drop off my outdated/used/unwanted apparel
products to clothing and/or shoe collection bins to be
used for other purpose 0.51
Environmental attitudes 2.02 40.28 0.64
Too much emphasis is placed on environmental
issues and concernsa 0.72
Environmental issues are very important to me 0.71
I have more important issues to deal with other than
environmental concernsa 0.67
I believe everybody should try to preserve for future
Table I. generations 0.61
Factors for hoarding, I believe my recycling efforts will probably have very
participation in recycling, little impact on the environmenta 0.41
and environmental
attitudes Note: aIndicates reverse coded items

and was named participation in recycling. For environmental attitudes, all five items
loaded on a single factor with a reliability coefficient of a ¼ 0.64 and was named
environmental attitudes.
Upon the approval of the Institutional Review Board in the researcher’s institution,
the questionnaire was distributed to students in several classes in a Midwestern
University in the USA. A total of 335 college students completed the survey. Of the data Consumers’
collected, 274 indicated that they have purchased apparel products in stores that carry post-purchase
fast-fashion brands. Thus, 274 were entered in the data analysis for this study.
The sample consisted of 33 males (12 per cent) and 241 females (88 per cent). The majority behaviours
of the sample were between 19-22 years of age (83.6 per cent), and white (61.3 per cent),
and unmarried (91.1 per cent). Descriptive statistics showed that on average, the
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respondents purchased 20-24 apparel products and spent $500-$599 annually. About 69 693
per cent of the sample kept 30 per cent of apparel products that had not been worn/used in
their closets over the past year and had disposed of fewer than 14 (78.6 per cent).
Results indicated scores of value-oriented hoarding (M ¼ 3.18, SD ¼ 0.98), participation in
recycling (M ¼ 2.39, SD ¼ 0.78), and environmental attitudes (M ¼ 3.59, SD ¼ 0.64) on
a five-point scale (see Table II).
Results of Pearson correlations indicated that fast-fashion purchase was positively
related to disposing (r ¼ 0.36, po0.01), and value-oriented hoarding (r ¼ 0.18,
po0.01), but negatively related to participation in recycling (r ¼ 0.36, po0.15).
Fast-fashion purchase was not related to environmental attitude. Value-oriented
hoarding was positively related to participation in recycling (r ¼ 0.17, po0.05).
Neither disposing nor environmental attitude were related to either participation in
recycling or value-oriented hoarding.

Conclusions
The fast-fashion market is growing. Trendy and cheap fast-fashions are easily
purchased and disposed of. However, post-purchase behaviours of fast-fashions have
been overlooked. This study investigated fast-fashion disposal and hoarding
behaviours using a sample of college students. Results of this study indicated that
fast-fashion consumers hoarded apparel products that had perceived value even
though they did not wear or use them. This finding was consistent with a previous
study (Bye and Mckinney, 2007) that consumers kept clothing that did not fit because
of perceived value. An interesting finding was that although fast-fashion consumers
were interested in the environment, they did not participate in recycling. It may be that
although they are interested in and concerned about the environment, they may not
know that all apparel products are recyclable. The relation between participation in
recycling and knowledge of recycling options may be explained by the finding of
Goworek et al. (2012), that consumers concerned about the environment do not seem to
know about ways to recycle textiles. However, this finding was inconsistent with
previous findings (Shim, 1995; Joung and Park-Poaps, 2013) that recycling behaviours
such as donation and resale were positively related to environmental attitudes.

Variables Meana SD 1 2 3 4 5

1. Apparel purchase 4.81 2.18 –


2. Disposing 2.58 1.78 0.36** –
3. Value-oriented hoarding 3.18 0.98 0.18** 0.07 –
4. Participation in recycling 2.39 0.78 0.15* 0.02 0.17* –
5. Environmental attitudes 3.59 0.64 0.01 0.02 0.08 0.07 – Table II.
Means, standard
a
Notes: n ¼ 274. Means based on a scale of 1-5, with higher scores indicating greater levels of the deviations, and
construct. * po0.5, ** po0.01 (two-tailed) correlations
IJRDM This study indicated that consumers who hoarded apparel products that had perceived
42,8 value also participated in recycling. This means that if consumers perceive some value of
apparel products, they keep them for future uses and participate in recycling them to be
used by others and for other purposes, instead of discarding. This finding is consistent
with Koch and Domina (1997) who indicated that consumers were more likely to recycle
than to throw away clothing valued due to personal attachment and investment. It should
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694 be noted that in the current study, although hoarders participated in recycling, their
recycling behaviour was not related to environmental attitudes.
As expected, consumers who purchased more items had tendencies to either hoard
or dispose more. Another interesting finding was that consumers who purchased more
apparel products were less likely to participate in recycling. They may throw away
unwanted apparel products. It may be that since fast-fashion consumers purchased
more than they needed, they got rid of their unwanted apparel products by discarding
for convenience. This is explained with previous findings that consumers discard
unwanted products for convenience (Joung and Park-Poaps, 2013) and to avoid hassles
(Koch and Domina, 1999). Also, fast-fashion consumers may easily throw away
clothing because they may not see the necessity of recycling due to the quality of
fast-fashion products.
The findings have some implications for the apparel industry, specifically for
fast-fashion suppliers. Fast-fashions should be produced in long-lasting high quality,
while keeping up with the latest style. In a study of environmentally conscious
consumers, Kim and Damhorst (1998) found that consumers had a willingness to pay
more for green products. Further, this study found that fast-fashion consumers have
positive attitudes towards the environment. Perhaps fast-fashion consumers who
purchase trendy apparel products would recycle, if the items were made of higher
quality materials (e.g. organic cotton, eco-friendly fabrics). Another suggestion is that
fast-fashion suppliers should take responsibility for their products not only at the
selling point, but also after purchase. Recently The North Face launched a clothing
recycling programme (clothes the loop), which offers a $10 voucher for the next
purchase when customers bring used apparel products. Similar to The North Face,
fast-fashion suppliers should collect their post-consumer products to be recycled.
According to World Wear Project (2013), nearly 100 per cent of household textiles and
clothing are recyclable regardless of quality and condition, yet Americans throw away
almost half of their unwanted household textiles and clothing, which accounts for
about 5 per cent of the solid waste stream.
Fast-fashion suppliers should develop education-based marketing communications
and contribute to developing a culture of sustainable consumption. Although any type
of textiles is recyclable, consumers are unaware of the need for clothing recycling and
have a lack of knowledge about how to dispose of unwanted clothing (Birtwistle
and Moore, 2007; Morgan and Birtwistle, 2009; Goworek et al., 2012). In a study of
consumer education to reduce solid waste, Stall-Meadows and Goudeau (2012) found
that education increased consumer awareness and the perceived importance of recycling.
Following the education, consumers preferred donations rather than discarding when
they disposed of clothing no longer wanted. Marketing media such as advertisements
should address benefits of recycling – funds to charitable programmes, reduction in solid
waste, and conversion into new products – and make them visible to consumers at the
selling points.
Note that though this research contributes to the study of clothing disposal, it has
limitations and suggestions for future studies. This study is limited to fast-fashion
purchase regarding post-purchase behaviours. Apparel hoarding and participation in Consumers’
recycling could be explained by other factors such as shopping orientations and post-purchase
consumer lifestyles. It is believed that materialistic, compulsive, and fashion innovative
consumers engaged in high clothing consumption. An additional study should address behaviours
those consumers’ post-purchase behaviours. Further, as noted earlier, solid waste
reduction education has changed consumer attitudes towards recycling. A future study
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should examine effects of consumer education on apparel hoarding behaviours. 695


The sample is limited to college students, which was selected because fast-fashions
are easily consumed by fashion-oriented young consumers. A similar study focusing
on other subcultural groups is warranted. For example, older consumers also purchase
fast-fashions. Previous studies have reported that older consumers get rid of unwanted
clothing in more responsible ways such as donation and reuse, and are less likely
throwaway than young consumers (Shim, 1995; Bianchi and Birtwistle, 2011). Further, it
is believed that older consumers may hoard more apparel products than do younger ones.
They have purchased and kept apparel products for more years and had more fitting
problems than younger consumers because of aging. Future studies should focus on older
consumers’ apparel hoarding and participation in recycling.
While fast-fashions create a waste culture, another side of the apparel industry is
moving towards supporting sustainability in a variety of ways. For example, textiles
are collected to be recycled and produce eco-friendly products (e.g. organic cotton).
Fast-fashion suppliers also should contribute sustainability of the apparel industry by
taking care of their post-consumer products and participate in recycling.

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About the author


Dr Hyun-Mee Joung is an Associate Professor in the School of Family, Consumer, and Nutrition
Sciences at the Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include post-consumer
behaviours, older consumers’ shopping behaviours, appearance management, the luxury market,
and brand loyalty. Dr Hyun-Mee Joung can be contacted at: hmjoung@niu.edu

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