Fashion and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Navigating the Aftermath

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By Roxy Rowton

The Coronavirus pandemic and economic upheaval will likely have a long-running impact on consumer spending behaviors. Consumers have adjusted shopping and buying behaviors during the pandemic. Apparel and fashion brands will need to take into account these recently adopted behaviors

 The COVID-19 pandemic has altered consumer spending behaviors. According to a survey conducted by Accenture, the world is experiencing massive behavior change at a scale and scope that has never been observed. Consumers are giving signals that they will likely embrace long-term behavioral changes that will continue beyond the Coronavirus pandemic. These changes in consumer behaviors are expected to cause permanent structural modifications in the fashion and retail industries. The shift in consumer behaviors will effect the way the fashion industry designs, manufactures, markets and communicates.

Consumers are already shifting purchase priorities to more personal and hygiene products and less fashion items. In a March 20-22 survey of US consumers by McKinsey and Company, 63 percent of the participants said they expected to spend less on apparel than in the past.

A Digital-First Approach

A potentially long-lasting behavior modification is the acceleration of e-commerce. Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, consumers were browsing and making purchases online. However, the Coronavirus pandemic has consumers changing much of their buying behavior out of necessity. Consumers will continue to adopt online ordering and home delivery. Apparel brands and retailers that have viewed e-commerce as a secondary channel will need to retrofit their operations to focus on scaling e-commerce systems and inventory. It is critical that apparel brands and retailers become digitally connected to understand the products or garments customers need and want. They will need to offer unique online customer engagement experiences. And, they will need to cater to the increasing demand for contactless services by introducing curbside pickup or buy-online, pickup in-store features.

Importance of Protective Textiles

The Coronavirus pandemic has ushered in an awareness of the importance of wearing personal protective items to reduce the risk of exposure to diseases and infections. Consumers are donning masks as essential protective gear. Personal protective masks and garments will likely become a wardrobe staple in the year to come.

Fashion Snoops, a trend forecasting enterprise, reports over the next 18 months consumers will remain in survival mode. They will shop for clothing that provides adaptability, utility, security and safety, all integrated in one garment. According to Fashion Snoops, customers will be seeking textiles that are treated with protective finishes to repeal antimicrobial organisms.

Going Forward

Consumers will be looking for more stability from their garments. Textiles with surfaces that are less porous will be strongly desired. Multifunctional garments that can be worn for more than one function or purpose will likely gain traction after the pandemic. Garments that offer wearability for more than one pursuit add values of versatility and convenience.

The fashion industry has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to reinvent and adjust to consumer spending behaviors in the past. The recovery is predicted to be long and bumpy. The industry must prepare for a market where consumer demands have changed dramatically. Apparel brands and retailers must fundamentally shift their design and market orientation to focus on the consumer’s desire for garments that not only look good but provide protection and security.

Roxy L. Rowton has spent three decades assisting women transform their wardrobe from a random assortment of garments into a curated collection of functionality and individuality. She shares her expertise on the Fashion Files at Prince William Living and “build a better wardrobe” blog at everydayrefinement.com.

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