The fashion industry was an abrupt victim of covid-19, with supply chains collapsing, retail stores closing and collections remaining unfinished. Factory contracts were terminated in chaos, leaving many textile workers unemployed in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Given the sharp economic downturn, it is not surprising that sales in the fashion industry fell by more than 40% in March and April.
As a result, record quantities of goods were not sold. Brands have tried to get rid of their inventory, much of which is now out of season, out of fashion and therefore unwanted. In an effort to move the product, many items were subjected to unprecedented discounts. Even this was largely unsuccessful, however, in an effort to increase sales and provide financial comfort.
Switch to the consumer side and it makes sense why sales of clothing are so low. If you work from home and don't have plans on your calendar, you don't have to empty our wallets for clothes. The urgency of the purchase is gone and we think twice about pressing the check-out button after we have prepared the perfect shopping cart. We also have that extra moment to stop and think about our purchases. The question is: do we really need this? The answer is probably not, unless it is something comfortable or categorically useful.
Although some call it essential, spending on apparel and footwear is largely discretionary, and in this uncertain economy many simply lack the funds for fashion. But what consumers are buying has raised two issues, dealing with the Work From Home style and the desire for comfort. Sweatpants and other loungewear are at the top of the list, followed by zoom-friendly pieces for a composed waist-look. Many flocked to minimal, casual pieces - see for example the rise of Nap Dress , the love child of the summer summer dress and nightgown. But overall, people buy less than in a normal year. In fact, the consumer has stopped to take a breather.
In response, brands are adapting to the somewhat more reserved consumer. While planning for the coming months and years, many fashion companies see the advantage of eliminating seasons and fleeting trends. Instead, they plan to create fewer and more varied collections and move towards a demand-driven future - a wise move. Other brands want to be more nimble and use pre-order functions to measure exactly what quantities they should produce. As always, their goal is to get as little unsold product as possible.
Of course, this change in demand has triggered an industry-wide domino effect. The spending crisis in Covid is causing brands to change how and how much they produce. This forces the hand of fashion to become more efficient, with economic and environmental benefits.
Numerous reports and surveys have shown that the shift in our purchases (work from home and leisure wear) following the pandemic is likely to continue. But will the new trend to buy less continue? Some signs point to yes. A recent survey found that while Covid reported that 60% of participating consumers said they would spend less on fashion, and half of them expect to continue spending less after the crisis. Many have realized that they are doing well at the moment by buying less clothes. Some are discovering or reinventing what they already own. And for those who still buy the same amount as in a typical year, their demand has shifted to products with purpose - the pandemic has increased consumer interest in sustainability as a qualification for buying fashion. One fashion manager called it a wake-up call that changes the impaired "consumption machine" for the better. This is a victory for sustainability - as we buy less and buy better, we reduce our impact. In addition, the brands' response to changing requirements leads to more efficiency and flexibility in production.
However, it would be naive to say that consumer spending on apparel will not recover at all. In fact, it has already begun to recover from the lows in March and April. In the end, Covid will not give everyone a revelation about consumer spending. As for the new standards for fashion spending, we cannot underestimate the sculptural power of the times we are currently living in. In the slowdown we have seen the emergence of new trends in how people spend their money. Overall, people have tended to buy less. If we emerge from a world ravaged by a pandemic, this new Covid trend could continue.
+ Words: Katia Hauser, Luxiders Magazine Contributor