The changing nature of fashion retail after Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the retail industry. Social distancing, the lockdown, and the decreasing number of shoppers has led to worrying decreases in overall sales. In the US, the clothing and accessory brands were down by 50.5% during the month of March, while in the UK, clothing sales were down by 28.4%

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, overall fashion retail sales forecast for 2020 looked positive continuing the trend from the previous few years.

If the negative trend continues, the fashion industry will experience a very tough period ahead and there will be drastic changes, but how has the fashion industry responded to the Covid-19 lockdown?

The changing nature of fashion retail

Fashion retailers were quick to adapt and offer their services for good during the pandemic. Some fashion brands started producing face masks or using their factories to produce hand sanitisers, others started manufacturing PPE. Burberry is a notable example of one such company. They donated 10000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS after changing their factory to produce this equipment.

From a sales perspective, the increase in online sales has been one of the more positive signs of the pandemic, but the overall numbers were worryingly low. In the UK, online sales were up 22.3%. However, with worries about the economy and job security, a lot of consumers are being fairly cautious about spending money.

The biggest question in the industry now is whether this period will pass or if this will change the industry forever. There have been actions outlined on what needs to be done in order to survive this period and plan for the future, whatever it may bring.

Industry experts have devised the following strategy:

  • Provide clear guidelines to employees, and focus on safeguarding their health and well-being.
  • Focus on controlling cash flow and managing cash reserves.
  • Review the supply chain, and respond according to customer demand.
  • Continue engaging with consumers, primarily through digital channels.

There are also a number of future plans in place.

  • Prepare and update stores accordingly for eventual opening.
  • Plan for demand in advance based on data, and perceived changes that might occur.
  • Create a journey to return to a strong financial position in the long term.
  • Focus on digital and offer a better experience to consumers.

The previously forecasted growth in fashion retail shows that consumers were going to continue their spending on clothing apparel and accessories. The current situation as a result of the pandemic is an event with short term and long term consequences.

Stores were shut down due to the pandemic, and normal life isn’t coming back for a while. There is also the economic impact of the pandemic, which will have a greater effect on the fashion industry.

The changing consumer 

There is a lot of talk on how things will change as a result of the pandemic with more home based working, flexibility, and lack of social interaction. There is also a popular theme amongst certain segments of the society who want to continue working as they have during the pandemic. But, the common thought amongst experts is that consumers will return to their old habits once conditions improve.

If a more casual approach to work is available, then the casual clothing and casual shopping will become the norm. If flexible working is available, then there will be more people in shops during hours with lower footfall.

Yes, this is all a prediction, but preparations are in place to respond to such changes.

The last and most important thing is the increasing focus on local, sustainable, non-harmful products. Consumers are becoming aware of the shoddy practices and harm the products they buy have. The environment, animal life, and other people need to be cared for, and there is a growing movement towards that way of life.

Societies do not change overnight, but in gradual steps, and we might be moving towards a different world. The fashion industry is clear about this, and it might fasten their plans for a more digital, sustainable, locally manufactured supply chain that was predicted for the future.

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