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"Freedom Day" and workers returning to offices boosts fashion sales

Tom Bottomley
24 August 2021

‘Freedom Day’ and people getting back to work in offices saw online fashion sales jump +12% in July, according to the latest data from consumer experience platform True Fit.

The data from True Fit’s Fashion Genome, which analyses data from 17,000 retail brands and 180 million customers who are registered users on the platform, also showed web traffic to fashion retail spiked by +35% across June and July compared to 2020.

Fashion checkouts were also up +51% in July 2021 compared to pre-pandemic July 2019, demonstrating the accelerated and sustained demand for online fashion, as UK shoppers’ switch to digital has remained buoyant even as bricks-and-mortar stores have reopened.

Consumer confidence was also up with average order values (AOVs) out-pacing 2020 levels since March, and peaking in the last week of July - rising to +17% year-on-year, as consumers reopened their wallets as the nation unlocked.

Sarah Curran Usher, GM EMEA at True Fit, said: “We have witnessed the rise and rise of digital as fashion shoppers have switched and stayed online, even as stores have reopened. But this great digital opportunity has brought a huge amount of change with it, which retailers must be ready to capitalise on if they are going to drive long-term growth and customer loyalty.”

According to True Fit’s data, order volumes of women’s dresses jumped +8% from June to July ahead of ‘Freedom Day’, and women’s dresses have also seen a steady rise since the start of the year as restrictions have eased, rising +150% from February to March when outdoor mixing was once again allowed. That continued to rise and peak in May, up +198% since the start of the year when hospitality fully reopened.

While a return to the office is boosting more occasion wear buying, the move to hybrid working for many is also impacting fashion category spend.  With 43/50 of the UK’s biggest employers not planning to bring staff back to the office full time, the shift between workwear and ‘work from home’ wear also remains fluid.

In late 2020, women’s tops outpaced orders of trousers and skirts by 120%, while sales of men’s tops outperformed trousers by 90% over the same period, as Brits ‘Zoomified’ their wardrobes from the top up as they worked from home or took meetings virtually via video calls. However, by June the gap closed to just 5% in womenswear and 17% in menswear, signalling that top-to-toe outfitting is now returning.

Curran Usher added: “Consumers aren’t just reinventing how they engage with brands online, their whole buying behaviours and wardrobe ethos have pivoted as the pandemic has played out.

“They’ve swapped allegiances, tried new brands and given up on others. Some have changed shape, and others have adjusted their style preferences as they’ve adapted to lockdowns and unlocking and new working routines. Even a brand’s most loyal of customers will behave and buy in a completely unrecognisable way to how they did before the pandemic. In short, the customer is the disruptor in retail now.

“Being able to understand and keep up with these emerging behaviours relies on being able to draw insight on how customers shop across collections, categories and price points, both within and outside of your brand. This can then inform key decisions across the business – from merchandising to marketing – so that emerging needs of shoppers can be met on a true one-to-one, ongoing basis.”

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