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Mar 24, 2021
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Pureplay giants are pandemic winners, will stay strong after reopening - report

Published
Mar 24, 2021

We all know that pureplay fashion giants have been the big winners from the lifestyle changes forced on people during the pandemic. But it seems that they’ll continue to reap the benefits of the relationships they built with shoppers in the last year as the UK reopens.


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A new study from Wunderman Thompson Commerce and Attraqt, called Fighting for the Future of Fashion, spoke to 2,000+ consumers in the UK and found that nearly two thirds of fashion shoppers are now more likely to buy online than they used to. And “even more fashion shopping will transition online in the coming months”.

In fact, 69% of fashion spending now happens online and 63% of fashion shoppers have a digital-first habit that they may not have had pre-pandemic. 

The report said that pureplay names such as ASOS and Boohoo have become “the number-one purchasing channel for fashion shoppers in the UK”. As many as 45% of all fashion shoppers now buy via such businesses. It said they win out in the UK ahead of high-street retailers’ online sites, department stores, brand stores and even Amazon. 

That doesn't mean that Amazon isn't a key player in the market. Respondents may not yet see Amazon as the major player for buying fashion, but its role in the fashion market is growing fast. It's the most visited fashion site for UK consumers with 60% of fashion shoppers visiting Amazon to shop for clothes and accessories, even if ASOS and Boohoo are better at getting them to actually buy.

It seems that Amazon still has work to do to make it front-of-mind as far as being a fashion site is concerned. Some 27% of fashion shoppers agree that it needs to improve its overall look and feel for them to shop on the site more regularly.

BRICKS AND MORTAR 

So where does all this leave physical stores? Well, they still have a part to play but they need to work very hard too. “There’s still life in fashion’s bricks-and-mortar”, we’re told, and 26% of fashion shoppers want to touch and feel a product before making a purchase. But that’s a relatively small number compared to the larger percentages going online as their default strategy.

The report said that “as non-essential shops reopen their doors in April, it’s clear that an online offering will still be vital to converting long-awaited footfall into much-needed sales”.

Replenishing their shelves regularly will help. Regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in physical shops, consumers remain quite demanding and are increasingly moving away from mega-season drops. In fact, they expect fashion ranges to change on average 17 times a year. The report said “this could present challenges to fashion brands and retailers that aren’t agile, don’t adapt quickly, and haven’t invested in the right technological and systems architecture”.

Encouragingly, while shops in the UK won't reopen until next month and will have lost a lot of sales by being closed so far, that doesn't mean it's game over for in-person (or digital) fashion shopping this year.

The study said “the most significant period of fashion spending is yet to come for retailers”. Some 47% of fashion shoppers buy items for their summer holidays – making it the number one yearly event for fashion spend. And even if holidays abroad are off the agenda in 2021 (which we still won't know for certain until next month), consumers will be likely to buy new items for holidays spent in the UK.

Not only that, but 57% of fashion shoppers buy products on Black Friday, giving fashion retailers hope for later in the year. 

The study said it’s important to remember that consumers are “deal-hungry and price sensitive”. As many as 40% say exclusive deals would encourage them to purchase items more quickly, while 32% think retailers should offer better discounts and promotions.

Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, said: “The world of fashion has likely been changed irreparably by Covid-19. Commercial premises have, at least for the time being, become a financial strain, and some fashion retailers have been forced to digitally transform their operations overnight in order to cash in on the migration to digital channels.
 
“Now is the time for fashion stores to invest in their omnichannel offering. Exclusive deals, alongside a continued refresh of product ranges and delivery incentives, are likely to differentiate the strong fashion retailers and brands from the weak. Those that can find a successful balanced strategy will see the scales tip in their favour come the year end.”

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