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New data shows the pandemic’s impact on fashion retail

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Courtesy Edited

For many retailers the repercussions of Covid-19 in the early stages impacted their businesses as would an earthquake; flattened and in some cases all out destroyed.

One and a half years on, global marketplaces are reaching various stages of recovery and data from Edited show how shopping shifted during the pandemic and what retailers can do to drive sales using their market intelligence.

Key takeaways

Stores closing accelerated the urgency for ecommerce innovation, leading to a dramatic YoY improvement for KPIs such as dead stock units and average days to ship.

Quarantine and work-from-home lifestyle shifts led nimble retailers and brands to quickly adjust their category mix away from formalwear to comfort dressing.

While some brands are restructuring to offer accessible prices, luxury brands continue to get more expensive as investment pieces outpace 2020 and 2019 levels.

Early pandemic days saw a discounting frenzy, which was not kind to profitability or selling efficiencies. 2021 discounting levels have returned to closely mirror 2019 and are improving on profitability.

Shift to online shopping

Figures from Accenture show a 160 percent increase in the frequency of digital purchases by those who rarely shopped online pre-pandemic. Retailers quickly needed to figure out how to move stock into shippable locations, ramp warehouse inventory, expedite shipping and avoid costly split shipments.

Decrease in dead stock

As stores closed and consumer demand waned, apparel retailers were left with high inventory levels. In analyzing like-for-like fashion retailers and comparing April 2021 to April 2020, the inventory value associated with dead stock is down 38.7 percent. This is due, in part, to increased demand for fashion as vaccinations roll out and consumers shed their loungewear.

Faster shipping times

Beyond minimizing dead stock, fashion retailers and brands have seen their warehouse investments pay off with a 21.4 percent reduction in the average days to ship. These are all very healthy signals for an industry that was forced to innovate its supply chain and reduce its assortment to merchandise stronger selling items.

3 major category shifts

In August 2020, McKinsey & Company reported global consumers expected more mindful shopping and a pullback on spending across key retail categories such as apparel, footwear, home furnishings, skincare and makeup. Groceries, home entertainment and household supplies were to be the beneficiaries of this shift in demand.

With no festivals, weddings, parties, meetings or gatherings to attend, nimble fashion retailers and brands responded to new WFH trends and virtual engagements by contracting formalwear in favour of casualwear. Unsurprisingly, sleepwear, activewear and loungewear emerged as category saviors.


As vaccine distribution increases and governments begin to allow more free flow, data from Edited show consumers embracing pre-pandemic categories, seen by a growing demand for high heels, swimwear and blazers. Already the Spring 2022 collections are looking radically different than a year ago, and early sales data is showing positive signs of recovery.

Facts and figures courtesy Edited