While the majority of UK consumers plan to prioritise spending time with friends and family when lockdown restrictions are lifted, 16% aim to spend time shopping for non-food items – with over two-thirds looking forward to purchasing clothing items as they start to anticipate more social activities and buy into new season trends.
Though this interest will be encouraging for fashion players, it will not be enough to boost the sector across the full year, with clothing and footwear still expected to be the sector worst hit by the pandemic, as UK spend is forecast to decline 33.1% in 2020.
The UK government’s announcement on Monday (25 May) that non-essential retailers must remain closed for an additional two weeks will have been a blow to players across the retail sector. And while clothing is expected to receive the most interest once restrictions are lifted, it is unlikely that retailers will be able to make up for months of lost spend this year.
Though implementing effective social distancing measures will help to make retailers more favourable among cautious shoppers, fashion players must still actively encourage shoppers to browse their stores, as these strict regulations have potential to severely impact dwell times and basket sizes.
Consumer shopping plans
Source: GlobalData’s monthly survey of 2,000 nationally representative UK consumers conducted in early May 2020. Consumers who cited they planned to shop for non-essential items immediately after the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, were subsequently asked: ‘What are you looking forward to shopping for?’ All figures are in percentages.
One of the biggest difficulties that will be encountered across the clothing sector is the concern regarding fitting rooms, with the government stating that shoppers should not be allowed to try on items in store due to hygiene issues.
As fit and comfort are integral factors when buying new clothing items, this is likely to be off-putting, and may become a barrier to purchase. Therefore, retailers operating within this sector must identify innovative solutions, such as augmented reality mirrors, or virtual catwalks via their apps, to ease the shopping process and provide more inspiration for consumers.
The lack of access to fitting rooms will inevitably lead to higher return rates, however. Retailers are being instructed by the government to quarantine returned goods for 72 hours before putting them back on the shop floor, which means they will be sitting on large amounts of unsaleable stock at one time.
As this will occupy valuable stock room space, and lead to more fragmented ranges, clothing players must work to minimise returns by providing more in-depth size guides across different product types. They should also feature a more inclusive range of models and mannequins within instore displays, to allow shoppers to visualise the items on a selection of different body types.
One-way systems, more limited customer service opportunities, and less densely populated stock in stores will also interfere with the normal browsing process, and limit the amount of time shoppers want to take wandering the store. Therefore, it is important for clothing retailers to enhance other in-store elements to improve the shopping environment, such as more unique product displays and visual merchandising, as this will create a more positive experience for consumers.
Official data released last week shows UK retail sales volumes fell by a record 18.1% in April – the first full month of lockdown – with the volume of clothing sales half that of the previous month.
Earlier this month, GlobalData forecast Covid-19 will wipe off US$297bn from the global apparel market in 2020 – a 15.2% decline on 2019.