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Fashion is key focus for those ready to return to shops - survey

Published
Jun 10, 2020
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It's still unclear how enthusiastic consumers will be about shopping in physical locations again when a large number of UK stores open next week, but new research suggests that the fashion sector may have more of an advantage than some other studies have concluded.


Fashion shopping will be a top priority for some



Analysts at GlobalData said that while most UK consumers will prioritise spending time with family and friends once the lockdown is over, more than two-thirds are also looking forward to buying fashion items. This is based on a survey of more than 2,000 consumers last month.

The enthusiasm for fashion shopping will come as they start to anticipate more social activities and buy into new season trends.

Of those consumers who said they would be shopping for non-essential items, some 66.5% of those surveyed will be buying clothing, while 29.3% will buy footwear and 24.4% will be on the lookout for beauty products.

But fashion stores will still face challenging times in the months ahead. Pippa Stephens, Associate Retail Analyst, said that “although this interest will be encouraging for fashion players whose stores have been closed for weeks, it will not be enough to boost the sector across the full year”. The company is predicting that clothing and footwear will be the sector worst hit by the pandemic with UK spend forecast to decline 31.6% in 2020.

Additionally, despite the likelihood that many consumers will want to buy fashion items, the issue around fitting rooms could be a problem. The government is discouraging retailers from opening fitting rooms due to the hygiene implications. Some stores are opening them anyway, but many others won’t. GlobalData said “this is likely to be off-putting, and may become a barrier to purchase”.

The company said that stores should look at tech solutions instead such as augmented reality mirrors, or virtual catwalks via their apps, to ease the shopping process and provide more inspiration for consumers.

Stephens, continued: “The lack of access to fitting rooms will inevitably lead to higher return rates [and] as retailers are being instructed by the government to quarantine returned goods for 72 hours before putting back on the shop floor, they will be sat 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 in-store displays, to allow shoppers to visualise the items on a selection of different body types.”

Looking deeper at the consumers who are keen to get back to shopping, just who is the most enthusiastic? The survey also showed that it’s the 16-24 age group, with 66.8% feeling comfortable returning to shops.

Analyst Sofie Willmott said this makes sense: “With the fatal risk of Covid-19 much lower for the majority of younger consumers, they are more willing to return to public places. Consequently, those retailers targeting 16-24s such as JD Sports and H&M, will see footfall return more quickly than retailers, such as M&S and Debenhams, that are trying to encourage older customer bases back to stores.”

Enthusiasm wanes as the consumer groups get older culminating in only 44.7% of the 65+ group being keen to return to stores. For those aged 25-34 it’s 58.4%, while the 35-44 group is at 53%. The 45-54 cohort is almost the same (52.4%) and those aged 58-64 are on 54%.

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