Prepare for the Post-Pandemic Retail Boom
Coming from an industry so hard hit by the Coronavirus crisis, with 180,000 retail jobs lost last year and more predicted for 2021, it is difficult to see any silver linings as we suffer through yet another lockdown. However recent figures show that things are on the up for much of the population, with the number of people on reduced salaries down by 50% and those on furlough down by almost a third. There's even talk of a spending boom on the horizon, could it be time to get our hopes up?
It seems that the positive early results from the rapid implementation of the Covid19 vaccines have resulted in a boost in confidence among consumers as they begin to imagine a future without the virus. And with 86% of respondents planning to get the vaccine when available, the prospects of reaching herd immunity by Summer now seem more encouraging than ever. While enforced store closures and restrictions have hit the retail industry hard, the lack of socialising, travel and shopping trips has had a positive effect on the consumer's pocket, with 74% reporting their personal finances had improved or remained the same.
As confidence improves, consumers are beginnig to plan for major purchases including rebooking events that had to be cancelled (30%) or luxury holidays (15%), plus there is likely to be a return to spending more time in the office – activities which are likely to inspire the need for new outfits after a year of wearing pyjamas and sweatpants. There is even talk of a return to the “roaring twenties” that we predicted (albeit prematurely) back in April, as consumers fed up with months of restrictions and austerity splurge once more on the frivolous and fun. But retailers can't be complacent – it's not simply a case of things going back to the way they were before the crisis. The reality of living with a pandemic has changed all of us and stores must continue to adapt to make sure that they can make the most of the boom when it arrives.
Online or In Store?
Those brands and retailers that were obliged to invest more heavily than expected in expanding their online presence needn't worry that the investment was in vain as we return to a semblance of normality. While around 1 in 5 consumers predict they will spend more on fashion in store once the fear of infection has lessened, another 20% expect to spend more online than they had previously. Retailers who will excel in the post-pandemic climate will have an omni-channel presence that connects their customers' online and offline experience.
During most economic crisis we expect to see a decline in consumers searching out sustainable options as price becomes the most important deciding factor in purchases. However, the Coronavirus crisis seems to have had the opposite effect with 65% of respondents to a global poll by Ipsos Mori stating that climate change is more important now than ever. Sustainable fashion brands have also reported increased sales, with UK childrenswear brand Frugi seeing a 60% sales increase throughout 2020 despite the problems faced by their competition. Consumers are demanding transparency from the brands they shop from, and ethical and sustainable practices are the top of their list when it comes to making a purchase decision. Even something as simple as moving to recyclable packaging could help make the difference between boom and bust for brands.
Back to the Stores
Despite some doubts, the high street still clearly holds a place in the public's heart with over 50% of consumers believe that the government is not doing enough to support stores during the pandemic. As we emerge from the crisis it's safe to assume that we will see a major increase in footfall as customers return to their favourite local stores. However, the retail experience as we knew it has changed and we can't expect it to change back any time soon. 88% of consumers prioritise feeling safe in stores, while more than half want the current safety precautions to stay in place indefinitely. Masks in public, social distancing and contactless service are likely to be here for some time to come.
Staying on Trend
After the last 12 months it takes guts to even try to predict what trends will be the ones to watch over the next few seasons, as the predictions made this time last year were so far off as to be laughable. But perhaps now we're a little older and wiser we can perhaps make some tentative guesses. Loungewear is likely to stick around as comfort continues to take priority over style, but as we move back to office we may see a combination of classic tailoring in more forgiving fabrics – loungewear 2.0 perhaps? Long awaited weddings, proms and vacations will be celebrated once more, so occasion wear suppliers may finally get their day in the sun as consumers embrace the opportunity to dress up once more.
Whatever the future holds, retailers may do well do follow the TK Maxx model which worked so well for the retail giant so well during the pandemic – ordering small quantities of short order stock on a regular basis to adapt to consumer trends in real time. TradeGala is the perfect platform for retailers looking to trial this purchase method – with live stock from brands around the world and low minimum order quantities, boutiques and fashion stores can update their stock regularly based on what works and what doesn't, avoiding the build-up of dead stock and inevitable price cuts. As you plan for the future, make sure your store is ready when the boom hits!
Written by Amber Domenech Patey