Consumer spending on fashion is way down, but not entirely shut down.
While Walmart, Walgreens, Amazon, Target, CVS, Costco, Kroger, Trader Joe’s and other “essential” retailers are in high gear to meet the rush for food, pharmaceuticals and protective gear, others despair over what to do with all their “nonessentials” lingering on the shelves of temporarily closed stores and backed up in warehouses. “Clothing and footwear is facing a crisis. This category sees the greatest number of consumers cutting spending, and the level of sales transfer to e-commerce is insufficient to offset the impact of store closures,” according to Coresight Research.
Yet several retailers and industry experts contacted by WWD over the past week cited a few bright pockets in soft goods, in particular baby clothes, basics, bedding, pajamas, sweats, denim, and generally speaking, clothes for comfort, lounging and sheltering in. No surprise there.
On the hard goods and services side, board games, toys, home improvement and home organizers, streaming services, tutorials and tech accessories were frequently cited as strong sellers.
Among some “nonessential” categories and products displaying surprising traction — trampolines; hair dye (since salons are closed in many states); firearms; bidets (in case toilet paper ever does, indeed, run out); gold jewelry, and luxury skin care (so people can look their best on all those videoconferences they’re having these days).
Parents are desperate for products that keep children occupied and not bored, and enable them to work at home. Influence Central, an agency that connects brands with influencers, surveyed 700 consumers online March 30 and found that 63 percent of working parents are struggling to get work done and of that group, 10 percent responded they couldn’t get any work done at all at home with their kids around.
“Right now, we are seeing activewear, loungewear, home and skin care performing very well, perhaps unsurprising given more of our customers are staying at home,” Renée Paradise, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of digital, told WWD. “In both women’s and men’s active apparel, loungewear, and sneakers, we’ve experienced significant growth across some prominent vendors like Alo Yoga, Nike and Eberjey. Home has been the major standout, with candles as the star from brands including Nest and Voluspa. Kitchenware brands like Nespresso, All-Clad and Oxo are strong, and there has been impressive growth in luxury bedding and towels from brands like Matouk. Luxury skin care has been particularly robust, with brands like La Prairie, La Mer and Sisley seeing major growth.”
Paradise added that women’s denim, notably Agolde and Frame, is selling well compared to other apparel categories. “We’ve also seen solid performance from designer gold jewelry, particularly brands like Marco Bicego and Roberto Coin.”
Wayfair, an online destination for furniture, decor, decorative accents, housewares, seasonal decor and other home goods, is taking share, according to Jefferies Research. About 80 percent of the home sector is closed for business and Amazon is prioritizing other categories, Jefferies noted, adding that Wayfair is seeing particular strength in mattresses, bedding, sheets and towels, basic kitchen and cookware items, large appliances, home office furniture, and children’s furniture and playroom product.
At Kohl’s, “Our customers continue to look to us for comfortable and cozy apparel for the family, particularly ath-leisure tops and bottoms such as sweatshirts, Ts and leggings, as well as kids apparel, especially in baby and toddler,” said a spokeswoman. “We are also seeing trends in customers looking for things related to staying in, from home essentials such as small electrics, floor care, air purifiers and candles, to fitness-related products including active apparel and fitness equipment.
“Some of our most popular searches on kohls.com over the past week [the first week of April] have included electronics, home, toys and kids apparel…As consumers’ daily habits have shifted during this time, we are also adapting our marketing content…We’re leaning into relevant content themes across channels, particularly digital, to provide inspiration for families at home, including entertaining the kids with a focus on toys and gaming products; holistic wellness with active, home and beauty products, and work-from-home trends such as home office essentials and cozy loungewear.”
At Walmart, “Handkerchiefs are selling well as consumers look to create their own masks,” said a spokeswoman. No other apparel areas were cited as the mass retailer focuses during the health crisis on food, cleaning and health-related products.
“We have observed an increase in online activity for QVC and HSN,” said a spokeswoman for Qurate Retail, the parent of QVC and HSN which don’t operate stores. “On the product side, we’re seeing increased interest online in food, cooking supplies, cleaning supplies and devices, wellness products, home office products, and home fitness items — as well as crafts, garden, and other items that are helpful to the home. In March, page views for food rose 66 percent on QVC.com and 48 percent on HSN.com. Page views for home office rose 77 percent on QVC.com and 234 percent on HSN.com In addition, page views on HSN.com rose 143 percent for wellness, and 126 percent for health and fitness.”
At Commando, the intimates and underwear brand, “Our consumer wants comfort and style,” said Kerry O’Brien, founder, designer and chief executive officer. She said bralette sales were up 86 percent on wearcommando.com, and that legwear sales at other retailers, even with store closures, rose at least double digits.
MCM, the luxury accessories brand, said it’s seen “strong year-over-year growth” fueled by promotions, content, live video chats with customers and its ”data capture” strategy. The company cited belts, leather accessories, slides, classic Cognac Visetos styles, socks and loungewear as currently selling well. According to a spokesperson, “MCM’s online business has experienced strong year-over-year growth and we are constantly looking at available options to further grow our online business, including leveraging live video chat with store associates to engage with product in real time, offering customers and fan’s digital experiences and personalized digital styling sessions.”
Gemstone rings, statement bands, enhancers and three-stone engagement rings are among the bestsellers at Zales, while multistone diamond rings and the Center of Me collection of necklaces, rings and earrings with gold or sterling silver centered by a diamond are selling best at Kay.
“Today, with our brick-and-mortar locations temporarily closed, we have the opportunity to accelerate our digital consumer engagement strategy and continue to bring the best of our stores, especially our jewelry consultants’ expertise, to the e-commerce environment,” said Bill Luth, executive vice president of global operations for Signet, which operates Zales and Kay. They have new technology that allows them to consult their customers while working safely from home, and not long ago, Signet added online capabilities for customers to design and personalize jewelry, Luth said. “We’re seeing encouraging results…”
Last week at PopSockets, which makes grips, mounts and wallets for digital devices, “We had one of our biggest days of the year,” on the web site, said Ken Dayley, vice president of global direct-to-consumer. “Consumers are looking for products that will help them stay connected with their family, friends and colleagues, while also helping them adjust to life at home with COVID-19.”
Still, “Discretionary spending is facing a major retrenchment and apparel is bearing the brunt of this,” according to Coresight Research. “A substantial proportion of those buying more online are buying more apparel through e-commerce — but the number of shoppers switching apparel spend to e-commerce is not enough to recoup the sales lost through mass store closures.”
“The superstores, warehouse clubs and the leading hardline stores are capitalizing on the closures of apparel, department and other stores to gobble up growing share of the total retail market,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. “The life-and-death question for the retail industry is how many of these stores can reopen soon enough to survive — and whether they can regain even a fraction of the market share they’re losing during the pandemic.”
Influence Central, in its March 30 survey, found that 85 percent of the respondents believe a recession will happen; 44 percent are increasingly worried about their short-term finances, and 58 percent are greatly worried about their long-term finances. That’s all heightened the demand for deals and services.
Consumers reported their online shopping has increased by 38 percent during social distancing; 43 percent now use delivery or drop-off/pick-up services for groceries/essentials; 58 percent are interested in learning about new delivery and drop-off methods, and 60 percent now shop online for products outside of essentials, with leading categories of clothes, shoes and makeup sought out by 52 percent, and toys, games and activities for kids sought by 51 percent.
In addition, 72 percent of consumers plan for more online shopping in the stay-home days ahead, with groceries, health and beauty, cleaning products and over the counter medicine and supplements the most sought after categories, followed by apparel and home electronics.
Only 20 percent are spending more time listening to influencers, and 21 percent said they spent more time seeking influencers they haven’t followed before. The rest have kept up their normal influencer viewing.
According to Jefferies Research, the National Instant Criminal Background Check system indicated that in March there was an 80 percent increase in firearm background checks, underscoring a spike in gun demand. “In fact, March 20, 2020, marked an all-time high for firearm checks conducted in a single day nationwide, at 210,308. Industry groups have pointed to a surge in first-time owners contributing to these numbers,” Jefferies reported.
In other hard goods, there’s been growth in laptops and connectivity gear due to telecommuting from home and TV sales are up, Jefferies reported. “To date, the winners, if any can be ordained during this crisis, are the superstores, warehouse clubs and hardline retailers.” Not department and specialty stores.
SOCIAL DISTANCING AT RETAIL
McMillan Doolittle, the retail strategy and consulting firm, says that amid the coronavirus pandemic, most customers have moved “beyond hoarding to the next wave of shopping behavior” focused on limited trips to stores, increased purchasing online and home delivery. When people do venture out to shop, they want to it to be obvious inside the store that precautions are being taken to minimize the risk of infection. Among the in-store measures to protect shoppers and store workers, McMillan Doolittle cites…
• One-way aisles to enforce social distancing. “ShopRite taped out large arrows to help shoppers understand the new shopping pattern, reducing in-aisle congestion.”
• Plexiglass shields, which are at many grocery retailers and warehouse clubs to separate cashiers and customers. (Store associates wear masks and gloves.)
• Establishing lines outside stores to limit shopper traffic along the aisles and lines at checkouts.
• Enhancing delivery service. Walgreens partnered with Postmates to offer expanded on-demand delivery of health, wellness and convenience items and a limited number of OTC medications.
• Virtual stylists and classes. Nike has an app for virtual workouts for strength training, cardio and yoga; Michael’s Stores has a FaceBook live craft event weekly using curbside pickup; Evereve has virtual 30-minute styling appointments via FaceTime or by phone.
TOBE REPORT: STICKY CONSUMER TRENDS IN A HEALTH CRISIS
“We see neat clean, casual clothing for videoconferencing and working in; loungewear; sliders; brands like Lunya (sleepwear and underwear) and Jenni Kayne which has that easy, California style — that level of clothing is becoming more important,” said Leslie Ghize, executive vice president of Tobe, the think tank division of Doneger Group which researches and projects consumer trends and behavior. “With teleconferencing getting popular, the issue is what you look like on camera.” Along with that comes a stepped-up demand for office supplies and connectivity to work seamlessly from home, Ghize said.
Ghize also cited do-it-yourself manicures, single-process hair coloring, beauty treatments to be “Zoom-ready,” home decor and organizers, gaming and fitness apps, arts and crafts, literature, music, and puzzles experiencing upticks.
For the great outdoors, Ghize cited garden products and outdoor furniture to make backyards comfortable and to grow gardens; fire pits; trampolines; bicycles, and skateboards as rising trends. As an alternative to movie theaters, outdoor movies could gain popularity, meaning movie projectors, screens and outdoor seating are required, or at least a nice big lawn.
“Further down the road, expect new categories of accessories — fashion face masks, neck gaiters, balaclavas, bandanas and scarves,” said Ghize. “A good example is Kule’s fashion ski mask from prior years. Expect perfume brands adding hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes as part of the line — Chanel No. 5 hand sanitizer, yes please! And look for ‘understudy brands’ (generic and house brands) to get a chance to shine with number-ones selling out. Bounty, Clorox, Purell, watch your back.”
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