Of all the categories affected by COVID-19, fashion has seen some serious impact. As fewer people head outside, the concept of buying clothes and footwear isn't seen as an essential purchase. But it appears that this is changing, with more Australians turning online to purchase their clothes.
“People are going to put their stimulus checks toward essential goods, like groceries and credit card payments,” said Andrew Lipsam, Analyst at eMarketer. “They won’t be buying new clothes.”
There have been plenty of changes in the last few weeks, however. A lot of shoppers in Australia see fashion as essential even if they can’t wear it out it seems, with the shackles lifted and fashion seeing a rise from 22 percent to 30 percent intending to increase fashion spending online.
Boohoo, the fast-fashion retailer experienced a strong start to the year, but that changed significantly in the first few weeks of March. “Since the middle of March, trading has been mixed, as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, initially with a marked decrease in year-on-year growth,” a spokesperson for boohoo said.
However, in the last couple of weeks, its performance has improved, resulting in a 28 percent increase of active members YoY for boohoo, a 26 percent increase for PrettyLittleThing, and an 88 percent increase for NastyGal YoY. “We remain cautious regarding our outlook, as a result of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson for boohoo said.
Due to changes in customer behaviour, it’s likely that these trends will continue as the COVID-19 outbreak decreases. According to the Let’s Regrow Town Hall information session, hosted by Power Retail on April 1st, it was reported that 39 percent of online shoppers under the age of 25 were planning to decrease their online spending, with only 33 percent planning to increase their online spending.
In the last couple of weeks, this has significantly changed, with 50 percent now planning to spend more online in the coming month. “The rebound is equally strong in the under 34s category,” said Grant Arnott, the Managing Director of Power Retail. “…showing promising signs of online shopper confidence with the recent announcements regarding JobKeeper and other government measures to help offset the COVID-19 impact.”
boohoo’s revenue has increased 38 percent from last year, despite its margins, which has decreased 30 bps. “Although there is near-term uncertainty in the markets that we operate in, the group is underpinned by its incredibly strong balance sheet and is well-placed to leverage its scalable multi-brand platform and to continue to disrupt fashion markets around the world,” said boohoo CEO, John Lyttle.
Myer has also experienced an increase in its online sales in the last few weeks as its doors remain closed until May 11th. As such, the department store has rehired 20 percent of its staff to help with the online order fulfilment.
“The strong growth in the online business during the past few weeks has been particularly encouraging,” said John King, CEO of Myer.
This doesn’t mean that the category has returned to normal, not even in the slightest. However, there are some categories in the fashion industry that have improved in sales over the last few weeks.
Surprisingly, accessories such as handbags are experiencing an increase in popularity. According to a report from the online luxury retailer, Vestiaire Collective, that Hermès Birkins bags and Chanel handbags have increased in popularity, as they’re considered investment pieces. “It’s a generally accepted principle that these items hold their value,” said Jeffrey Berk, the Co-Founder of Prive Porter. For wealthy shoppers, these investments can “be a way to park your money while indulging in a hobby”. Of course, that is not something that every Australian consumer can relate to, as these luxury goods range from $10,000 to $250,000.
Loungewear, pyjamas and comfortable clothing has soared across the globe. According to a report from Love the Sales, there was a 433 percent jump for the search term ‘loungewear’ compared to the previous year. Surprisingly, premium brands that offer premium loungewear, such as Calvin Klein, are up 18 percent YoY.
It’s only an indication of what’s to come, and Australia has a long way to go before the fashion industry repairs itself. However, as consumer habits change and adapt to online, Australia may see a brighter future for the fashion industry.
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