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Will COVID-19 change fashion consumer behaviour online?

The coronavirus outbreak has certainly created a huge amount of upheaval in the retail sector. With countries around the country implementing various different forms of lockdown and shop closures...
Written by
Annie Button
Published on
November 24, 2023

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The coronavirus outbreak has certainly created a huge amount of upheaval in the retail sector. With countries around the country implementing various different forms of lockdown and shop closures, many businesses have seen their entire operation change or have to stop altogether overnight. 

Some supermarkets have seen a surge in profits, as anxious customers stockpile additional goods. But for other businesses who have been non-essential, things are getting trickier. In countries across the world, shoppers are more reluctant to visit stores, and in those under lockdown, they have been forced to close entirely until the restrictions are lifted.

The challenges for fashion retailers

Fashion is one industry that has certainly found itself facing challenges as a result of the outbreak, with not only retailers struggling but also the production line deeply affected by plummeting demand. The fact that European retailers have already cancelled in excess of $1.5 billion in orders from Bangladesh shows the scale of the issue. 

And the fact is that while the fashion industry will survive this crisis - it will come out of the other side looking markedly different for how it was before. Perhaps the most important thing to think about, however, is not how the retailers will change, but how customer behaviour will change and what retailers will need to do in order to survive and thrive. 

Ultimately, the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to cause a seismic shift in the way that consumers shop, and the industry needs to be prepared for that. So, how might customers shopping habits change going forward?

More online shopping

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pandemic has caused a large rise in the amount of online shopping taking place. Specifically essential goods have seen an enormous rise in demand - with retailers like Amazon having to prioritise the delivery of essential items over other orders currently being made. And customers have faced some criticism from eCommerce workers over the excessive shopping for ‘unnecessary’ items, how this has made things harder for warehouse staff.

However, this does importantly show that customers are buying more online, and likely also suggests that some people who may have been hesitant about online fashion retailers are now trying it for the first time.

Embracing a global market

With more customers looking online and become used to buying from online retailers, retailers may need to become more adaptive in terms of shipping around the world. If customers can’t get a particular product from a local website, it is just as easy to click and buy through one based in another country.  

“We ship worldwide and see that as a real positive over this period,” says Moby Latif, Head of Ecommerce at children’s luxury fashion retailer Childsplay Clothing “with different countries at different stages with the pandemic, it is always possible to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. We are optimistic - it is important to be ready to adapt in the face of this crisis”.

As the world emerges from Covid-19, it may be the case that consumers continue to feel more comfortable ordering from abroad. This is especially true if businesses are able to offer a greater range of fast worldwide shipping options. 

An older demographic

It may also be the case that in the medium term we could expect to see a swing towards an older demographic of consumers. The Covid-19 crisis has seen a large number of job losses, and the economy may be in relatively bad shape initially following the result of the lockdown across the world.

This may mean that the people with more disposable income for fashion are actually of an older demographic. This plays into the fact that some older people may be forced into online shopping through the pandemic, and therefore will end up more comfortable with it.

Prepare for unpredictability

The final point to make is that retailers need to become more adaptive and flexible. The Covid-19 crisis happened so quickly and changed so much about what we consider to be normal, it can be almost impossible to predict what will happen next. This unpredictable nature means that businesses need to be ready to go with the market, rather than trying to force a certain approach. 

No-one can say for certain whether the pandemic will have a truly lasting effect on online fashion retail, or if things will actually return to normality very quickly. However, these are challenging times and if retailers in any industry want to thrive, they need to be ready for any eventuality. 

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