Much has been written in recent months about the impact that COVID-19 pandemic has had on the entertainment and hospitality industries’ bottom lines. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that it has also taken a wrecking ball to the $2.2 trillion fashion and apparel sector. New styles have traditionally been unveiled at fashion extravaganzas held in fashion capitals like London, New York and Paris. Unfortunately, these were all cancelled when the pandemic struck.
The Shift to New Coping Strategies
The fashion industry has answered the COVID challenge organically. Boutique designers and small retail chains have coped with lockdown restrictions by finding new ways to connect with their customers, and major brands have shifted their focus from work and eveningwear to casual attire. Some of these coping strategies will be temporary and quickly forgotten when life gets back to normal, but others will continue to shape the industry for years to come.
COVID Fashion and Style Trends
Clothes buyers that once spent hours looking at store windows or searching for bargains at discount outlets responded to stay-at-home mandates by shopping on the Internet, but their shopping habits have changed. After analyzing the buying habits of more than nine million consumers in April, May and June, the global fashion platform Lyst found that sandals, facemasks and athletic leisurewear pieces were the most popular items.
- Comfort is king: With most offices closed and millions working from home, sales of business attire have plummeted. Consumers are now scratching their fashion itches by buying casual clothes like sweats, tees and crop-tops instead.
- Colorful is chic again: Bright colors and extravagant prints were de rigueur in the 1990s, but they were quickly replaced by more sophisticated styles. Bold and brash is now making a comeback as consumers are looking for ways to tell the world that they will not let the pandemic get them down. Sales of neon colors and leopard and tiger prints that were moribund at the turn of the year are now soaring.
- Face masks go mainstream: There was a time when wearing a face mask on an American street would prompt reactions ranging from raised eyebrows to outright panic, but now virtually everybody puts on some sort of face covering before leaving the house. Top designers are not known for letting a style opportunity go to waste, and they have responded to mask mandates by releasing eye catching masks in a cornucopia of colors and styles. Not only did this bring in much-needed revenue, but it also gave fashion brands a new and prominent way to display their logos.
- Eyes outshine lips: Sales of eye makeup have risen sharply during the pandemic as money that was once devoted to lipstick and lip gloss has been spent on eyeliner and eyeshadow. Once again, the trend has been more extroverted than subdued with bright colors and glitter gaining in popularity at the expense of more subtle shades and looks.
- Statement accessories: Web meetings and Zoom calls do not give style-conscious people much of a chance to shine, and many of them have met this challenge by consigning their old jewelry and accessories to a dresser drawer in favor of statement pieces like large hoop earrings, colorful hair clips and oversized eyeglasses. Vintage and faux-vintage accessories have also become more popular.
- Comfortable shoes: High heels and dress shoes are not selling in anything like the numbers they once were, and the slack has been taken up by casual shoe styles like flip-flops and sliders. Sales figures would suggest that consumers have taken a liking to comfort as flats seem to be the only dress shoes that are still selling well.
Brick-and-Mortar Moves Online
When COVID restrictions were lifted or relaxed in July, August and September, fashion retailers quickly realized that many consumers were still reluctant to visit brick-and mortar stores. Some of them responded to this latest challenge by offering their customers a hybrid shopping experience. One such retailer was the Los Angeles-based apparel and accessory chain Clare V.
Clare V added a link on their website that allowed online shoppers to live-chat with store employees. This gave potential customers the opportunity to ask questions about inventory levels and store traffic. It also allows them to set up private appointments to try on clothes. Clare Vivier, who founded Clare V in 2006, was planning on adding the feature in a few years. She says the economic consequences of the pandemic convinced her to move up her timetable.
Lockdowns and travel restrictions have also prompted retailers that once eschewed online sales to invest in eCommerce websites, and some of them have been happy to learn that selling clothes and accessories on the internet is not nearly as challenging as they had been led to believe. These retailers will emerge from the pandemic with another sales channel and revenue stream that will leave them better prepared to weather future challenges.
Fashion Goes DIY
Some fashion designers and retailers have found even more creative ways to deal with the COVID-related lull in sales. When sales of his signature coat cratered in April, designer Reese Cooper realized that many people had a lot of extra time on their hands. This gave him the idea of offering a DIY kit that would allow his customers to make their own coat at home. Cooper only made 1,000 of the kits because he was unsure about the idea. They were a hit, however, and all of them sold out in a matter of hours.
While selling the kits did not generate as much revenue for Cooper as selling the coats, the idea attracted media attention and spurred a wave of social media activity. People who made coats from the kit posted photographs of their creations on Facebook and Instagram, which has led to an uptick in online sales. This is another example of creativity in the fashion sector that has helped struggling companies to cope with an unexpected setback.
Seizing New Opportunities
Successfully taking advantage of new market opportunities takes more than vision and effort. It also requires software capable of handling the fulfillment and distribution burdens of new sales channels. N41’s all-in-one apparel ERP system was designed and developed exclusively to help companies in the fashion industry manage their inventories and reduce their turnaround times. To learn more about what our software can do for you, visit the N41 website, or call us on (213) 738-1010 to schedule a demonstration.