here was a time, also known as pre-Covid, when buying clothes might signal something exciting is on the way, such as a holiday, a wedding or a proper going ‘out out’ night. In lockdown life it is all about staying in, but as a flurry of trading updates from online fashion retailers show this week, that is not denting demand for new outfits.
Boohoo has reported that UK sales jumped 40% to £357.2 million in the four months to December 31, while other firms in the sector have cheered record performances (see list below).
There are a host of factors that have contributed to the online fashion shopping boom during the pandemic.
Firstly, digital businesses have benefited from much of the high street being closed currently and for parts of 2020.
Shore Capital analyst Greg Lawless says online players “have had a tailwind from physical clothing stores being closed during November and now lockdown 3.”. Consumers who do want to shop for fashion can only do so online or in a supermarket.
Lawless also points out that many online only, and multichannel retailers, have “pivoted successfully towards more casualwear, athleisure and knitwear”.
Peel Hunt analyst John Stevenson agrees: “There has definitely been a strong pivot to other categories, which is something the fast fashion businesses, like boohoo and In The Style can adapt to quickly.”
Boohoo says popular product categories during the pandemic have included loungewear and shackets (shirt/jacket).
Those sectors have been in demand as numerous people continue to work from home, and workout at home. Zoom video calls only show so much of your outfit, so bosses won’t realise if you are wearing smart shoes or slippers.
Across the retail industry, demand for formalwear has been hurt as a result of the cancellation of events such as weddings and less people needing suits in the office. That hit firms such as Moss Bros hard last year.
But, less social events, for some, may mean they have more disposable income. Not spending in pubs and restaurants for example, could leave some with more money to spend on fast fashion.
Meanwhile, Peel Hunt’s Stevenson also says that online brands have been able to keep shoppers enticed. He points to “a mix of constant newness, content, engagement, influencers and a really strong customer experience”.
Stevenson says there are other brands, with a physical and digital presence, that have performed well too. He points to Next’s online sales picking up to offset the impact of store closures.
Another reason people might need new clothes even though they are staying in, is because garments no longer fit. Lockdowns have encouraged some to go on a health kick, while others have found having a desk, aka kitchen table, next to the fridge is no good for your waistline.
Its not just all about comfy clothes though. With physical socialising off the cards, getting dressed up for a Zoom party might be a good opportunity to wear something more glam.
There must be plenty of people that want to buy more party clothes, hoping that they may finally be able to wear them out at some point in 2021.
Here are some of the online fashion retailers cheering sales growth:
Boohoo: The company said that following a strong peak trading performance, group revenue growth for the financial year to February 28 2021 is expected to be 36% to 38%, ahead of its previous guidance of 28% to 32%.
Asos: Sales jumped 23% to £1.3 billion in the four months to December 31, with a 36% rise in UK sales.
Sosandar: The AIM-listed firm said it had a record quarter in the three months to December 31. Sales were up 6% at £4 million.
In The Style: The online womenswear retailer, which is known for collections it has created and launched with celebrities, such as actress Jacqueline Jossa, said total sales in the 13 weeks to December 31 more than doubled to £13.5 million.