While the fashion sector has been the hardest hit of the major non-food sectors by COVID-19, the resulting changes in shopping behaviours can serve as a catalyst for retailers to invest wisely in the latest technology and innovations to help them adapt their businesses to this ongoing reality. Mintel’s consumer research in this Report shows that 62% of fashion buyers have used or are interested in using a sizing tool when buying clothes or footwear. As the shift towards buying fashion more online continues, this highlights the potential for retailers to look to the latest solutions such as 3D scanning technology.

Changes to our lifestyles as a result of the pandemic have also driven heightened interest in new fashion product innovations, as well as sustainability, particularly among Gen Z and Young Millennials who are the main fashion buyers. However, the spending power of younger generations is likely to be impacted in the short term as under-25s have been much more heavily impacted by COVID-19 in terms of job losses than older groups.

The massive pivot towards buying fashion online, combined with lifestyle changes such as people working from home more, will mean that people will continue to visit stores less. While this can be viewed as a threat to multichannel retailers increasingly trying to compete with pureplays, this can serve as a catalyst for retailers to redesign their stores to incentivise customers to visit through an improved experience that blends the physical and digital.

Social commerce is a growing trend in fashion, with over one fifth of shoppers already buying fashion items directly from social media and one fifth interested in doing so. While young female shoppers show high levels of interaction with fashion brands on social media, they are less likely than their male counterparts to actually use them to buy. There are big opportunities for retailers to make that direct connection between influence and commerce, but they will need to speak to their audience through platforms they are familiar with.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • Adapting to changes in fashion shopping behaviour due to COVID-19

  • Encouraging use of apps when buying fashion

  • Future interest in certain shopping behaviours

  • Redesigning stores for the future

  • Designing fashion products for the future

COVID-19: Market context

This update on the impact that COVID-19 is having on the market was prepared on 17 June 2021.

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January 2020, with a small number of cases in February. Rapidly rising case numbers led to the first national lockdown, starting on 23 March. It wasn't until 15 June that non-essential stores were allowed to reopen, followed by pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers on 4 July and many beauty businesses on 13 July.

By September, it had become clear that the UK was at the start of a second wave, and social distancing measures were intensified. Continued increases in infection numbers led to Wales implementing a two-week national lockdown from 19 October, England announcing a month-long lockdown from 5 November and Scotland introducing a new five-level system of coronavirus restrictions.

Despite these restrictions, however, case numbers continued to increase. All four UK nations tightened restrictions further in January 2021, effectively leading to a full UK-wide lockdown.

On 22 February, Boris Johnson announced the roadmap to an easing of restrictions in England, starting with the reopening of schools on 8 March, followed by the easing of restrictions on outdoor gatherings on 29 March and with a hoped end to all restrictions by 21 June. The Welsh and Scottish governments also gave more details on their plans to ease restrictions, with both nations taking a slightly more cautious approach to the one planned for England.

The UK’s vaccination programme started on 8 December 2020, with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines licenced for use in the UK. By mid-June, 42 million people have had their first dose of the vaccine while 30 million people have had the second dose.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its March 2021 Economic and Fiscal Outlook Report. After the fall of 9.9% over the course of 2020, the scenario suggests that UK GDP will grow by 4% in 2021 and 7.3% in 2022.

GDP isn’t expected to return to pre-COVID-19 levels until Q2 2022, although this is six months earlier than the OBR forecast in November 2020, mainly because of the faster-than-expected rollout of vaccines.

Unemployment is expected to peak at 6.5% in Q4 2021. As with GDP, this is more positive than the OBR’s November forecast, but the OBR does raise the prospect of long-term scarring on employment, especially in the more exposed retail and hospitality sectors.

Products covered in this Report

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

The Report looks at attitudes towards technology and innovation when shopping for clothes, shoes and fashion accessories in-store and online.

Back to top