From Riches to Rags: Fashion Industry in Tatters

At the beginning of 2020, the retail industry was facing some important changes. Consumers were abandoning classic retail stores such as Marks and Spencer or John Lewis in favour of online fashion marketplaces like Boohoo. Online shopping in general was experiencing a boom. Fast fashion was the order of the day and fashion companies were investing in tech and operations in order to speed up processes to meet the increasing demand. Three months later, and the fashion industry is dealing with a completely fragmented supply and demand chain.

100% Cancellation, Zero Income

Over recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has become more widespread, many fashion brands have devoted their resources to producing medical supplies. Amongst many others, US retail giants Macy’s and Nordstrom have announced that they will be cancelling orders. This is following an extensive pattern of 100% cancellation from all major retailers. Employees of the supply industry are looking at a purported minimum of 8 weeks with no income.

Blind Market Decisions

Coming out of this period, the fashion industry will be facing new challenges. There will be an unexpected surplus of existing stock and the issue of how to offload it. Retailers will also be up against it fulfilling any orders that are reliant on a broken supply chain. The fashion industry will be facing an unknown quantity coming out of the pandemic. They will be presented with an entirely unpredictable customer psychology and a new type of market leaving them with many problems to solve. Buying decisions, cancellations, pricing and styles will be decisions they will have to make blindly as they lack the data and consumer patterns of these past months.

Seasonless Retail

In this unpredictable state, fashion leaders are toying with the idea of “seasonless retail”. This goes against the traditional concept of seasonal collections and subsequently makes retailers more agile and less dependent on a specific supply chain. 

Customer-Dictated Future of Fashion

This period has been coined a “quarantine of consumption”. With people struggling to get hold of many previously easily accessible items, consumers are improvising with what they have. This may carry over to their fashion consumption habits. Importantly, as people are not leaving their homes, this obsession with fast-fashion is less pertinent. In confinement, many people opt to change from one pair of pyjamas to another. High fashion currently has little to no role in people’s daily lives. It is difficult to predict if this mentality will carry over into the post-corona world and we will see an increased trend of thriftiness. Or, conversely, there may be a boom in fast fashion as consumers are finally able to go out again. What is clear is that retailers need to be sensitive to what their customers are thinking in order to respond fast and plan for the future.