It appears that most garment professionals believe that once we are past the virus pandemic, our industry will return to business as usual. That belief is based on the assumption that the current problems are based on the pandemic. However, what if rather than causing the current problems, the pandemic is but an event, at most a catalyst that has exacerbated pre-existing downward trends.

This is not so far-fetched. After all, we professionals have long been aware that for some years consumers have been spending less and less of their disposable income on garments. If that trend continues, the end of the pandemic will provide a short-term spike after which the industry will shrink.

  • Factories chasing fewer customers.
  • Customers – retailers and brands – chasing fewer consumers.

The situation might well be worse. 

Moderate priced fashion is possibly the industry's most important and profitable sector. That sector is fast becoming the property of pure-play e-commerce startups. These interlopers are not only taking business from the traditional brick-and-mortar stores, they are also denying business to the traditional exporting factories.

While professionals are working hard to improve the supply chain, there are new growing sectors which exist outside the supply chain. Pre-loved (aka vintage clothing) and clothing for rent are no longer of interest solely to the weirdos and modern-day hippies. They have become mainstream. No factories! No markdowns, just the ultimate high quality affordable fashion.

There will be a post-pandemic industry. It will not be an extension of the past but rather a move to a new and very different future. In my work I meet and assist some remarkable people who are building that new industry. They will be among the companies that ten years from now will look back on 2021 as the beginning.

About the author: David Birnbaum is an internationally renowned garment industry specialist working for major importers, retailers, suppliers, governments and institutions. His latest book The Guide to Cost to Value Analysis is available at Amazon.