As a retailer in the clothing industry, you are used to regular fashion cycles and shifts in trends. But in the past 12 months we have seen fashion and related consumerism pivot in radically unpredictable ways. This is having an inevitable knock-on effect on the fashion industry, from design and manufacture, to communication with customers. So how should your clothing retail business pivot in response to a changing consumer during unusual times? We have rounded up the key fashion and marketing trends that you, the clothing retailer, needs to have on your radar, when it comes to shifting strategy.
Working from home and spending less time in in-person meetings, has seriously shifted how people are stocking their ‘workplace’ wardrobes. In response to this, clothing styles are shifting to accommodate the way in which work demands are changing and as a result normal ‘workwear’ is no longer required in the same way. With staff still working from home most days, “Casual Fridays” have extended to most days of the week. This is picking up where Millennials have left off, prioritizing work-life balance over stiff office-inspired living. While certain sectors like banking, finance and law have been untouched by this trend, this is inspiring a growing casual dress trend in many corporates and businesses around the world.
This is leading to an increase in demand for evergreen items like plain T-shirts, jeans and khakis. There is also a preference for clothing that is comfortable to wear during online calls and perhaps items that are more interesting from the waist up, as this is the part that people will see while on a work call. Leggings and joggers are selling well and trendy colours are being shelved for the upcoming seasons. Perhaps due to in-home laundry, consumers are also opting for easy-to-wash fabrics with a strong focus on versatility and comfort. One such trend which is on the rise, is known as “next-gen athleisure”. These hybrid outfits offer work-from-home flexibility and transition from work into yoga, exercise or down time. Says Jessica Harman from trend forecaster WGSN, “Hybrid clothing has definitely been on the rise. This is because comfort is key in this digital-work era, with a more fluid approach to wearability, bridging the gap between work and leisure.”
Pivoting marketing and retail strategies
This shift in fashion trends is influencing marketing strategies too because communication needs to reflect the zeitgeist. As in-person experiences pivot towards digital engagements, brands that want to have an impact, are leaning heavily towards online engagements too. Also remember that it’s not just where you are engaging that matters, but how you are engaging that matters. In response to the Covid-induced lifestyle, social media and email campaigns have all shifted tone; pointing customers to enriching their lifestyle in-doors and at home. Otherland, a consumer candle company, for example, is reinforcing its messaging with a new series of “fireside chats,” showing female influencers offering advice from inside their own homes on topics like creating that special at-home sanctuary, virtual vacations and other mood-boosting activities.
The bottom line
The Pandemic and Millennial culture has radically influenced the fashion industry in 2021. Meaning that clothing retailers now need to respond to their consumers and shift focus on both what they sell and how they sell it. While this is an incredibly challenging time for clothing retailers, if you can keep in mind that fashion lives at the interception of a customer’s emotional demands and their practical needs, then the answer to how you can accommodate a pivoting customer is fairly simple: Notice the changes in their environment, understand how you can solve their fashion challenges, and then make them feel really good about choosing you to solve that particular problem.