Fast fashion is among the many industries that suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic this year. As people give more importance to cleaning supplies and groceries, they push clothing expenditures to the back-burner. According to the Office for National Statistics, clothes sales have plummeted by 34 percent.
“As you’re sat at home, and you’re not going out to events, to dinners, restaurants, into work, the need for clothes—or really, the opportunity to buy—just isn’t there,” Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, said in an interview.
This doesn’t mean people aren’t buying clothes though. They’re just more intentional with their purchases, and prefer inexpensive products, which fast fashion brands provide. People also shifted to buying more loungewear online (because if you’re at home all day, you’d rather be comfortable than stylish).
ONS figures also show a record high of 22 percent in online shopping since the coronavirus. However, even with the help of online marketing, it’s not enough to save fast fashion companies from losing sales.
The Future of Fast Fashion Post-Pandemic
So what can we expect when it comes to consumer behavior and fast fashion production post-coronavirus? There are differing viewpoints from industry leaders.
Fashion Revolution Co-founder Orsola de Castro fears that fashion companies would double up production.
“We know that brands, particularly fashion brands, recover from moments of deep recession because there is a tendency to fall into excess after the restriction period,” she says.
McKinsey & Co. Senior Partner Achim Berg anticipates an “unusually competitive” market once stores reopen. With every brand using markdowns and promotions to dispose of unsold inventory, profit margins could suffer.
“The whole format lives on selling relevant, fashionable pieces at that moment in time, which is difficult if your store is filled with all the old stuff,” Berg added.
Imran Amed, CEO of Business of Fashion, believes there are creative ways to redistribute and solve fashion brands’ inventory crisis. He even cited ways some designers plan to repurpose their collections.
Amed also thinks the current situation would be a good accelerator for the fashion industry. “It will also accelerate the approach to sustainability and building responsible businesses.”
Vogue Editor Anna Wintour also expressed optimism that people’s fashion values would have shifted at the end of this. In spite of this outlook, we’re still clamoring for any chance at normalcy; shopping being the easiest way to feel like so. And, while there are some who have shifted their consumption outlook, there is still a huge demographic who still consume fast fashion.
New York Times fashion reporter Elizabeth Paton believes that fast fashion will survive COVID-19.
“The dynamics driving fast fashion consumption are still there,” she says. The only question now is whether or not fast fashion companies would shift their production behavior, just like industry leaders hoped for.