The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce in apparel and footwear. Specialist retailers and department stores shut down temporarily due to COVID-19 preventative measures and had to quickly pivot to e-commerce operations. Also, consumers moved to online shopping because of the lockdowns, store closures and the fears of contracting the virus. The report provides a broad top-level picture of the distribution landscape and highlights the importance of e-commerce in the industry.
Global apparel and footwear value sales declined by 19% in 2020. Due to COVID-19, consumers broadly shifted their spending to essentials such as groceries and cut back on discretionary categories such as apparel and footwear. Also, remote and hybrid work and learning as well as cancelled events and travels have diminished overall consumer need for new clothing and footwear.
Store-based retailing faced a significant reduction in store traffic and demand in 2020. Due to COVID-19, non-essential retail stores such as specialist retailers and department stores were forced to shut down temporarily, resulting in a significant drop in apparel and footwear sales.
COVID-19 further accelerated the channel landscape shifting towards e-commerce, as sales through e-commerce grew by 21% in 2020. E-commerce became the main channel during temporary store closures. Also, concerns about safety and fears around visiting shopping malls led consumers to increasingly shift to online shopping.
Retailers are increasingly making investments in new and emerging technologies to improve omnichannel retail experiences. In the time of COVID-19, contactless services such as curbside pick-up and “buy online and pick up in store” (BOPIS), virtual showroom and try-on platforms, and digital payments are on the rise.
The growth of e-commerce is a positive development for the apparel and footwear industry, going forward. With consumers growing increasingly comfortable with online shopping, along with retailers focusing more on scaling up their e-commerce capabilities, the future growth of e-commerce will remain strong in the apparel and footwear industry.
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