Where Consumers Shop for Apparel and Footwear

April 2021

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.

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Key findings

Apparel and footwear sales fall sharply amid the COVID-19 crisis

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 retailers see a record fall in sales in 2020

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.

E-commerce was only silver lining during COVID-19 pandemic

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.

Companies accelerate digital investment to survive the “new normal”

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.

E-commerce will be a positive development for the industry, going forward

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.


Key findings

Industry Overview

Apparel and footwear sales fall sharply amid the COVID-19 crisis
COVID-19 lockdowns influence consumers’ clothing choices
Asia Pacific remains the strongest region for apparel and footwear

Channel Shifts

COVID-19 accelerates a shift to non-store retailing, mainly e-commerce
Non-store retailing gaining share across all regions and categories…
…but channel shifts vary by region and category

Store-Based Channels

Specialist retailers represents more than half of store-based retailing
Retail traffic across all Channel Shifts hurt due to COVID-19
Specialist retailers struggle with decreased traffic and temporary closures
Minor movements seen in top 10 ranking of specialist retailers
Store-based retailers are adapting to shoppers’ changing habits
Modern grocery retailers remains small in apparel and footwear
Some movements among the top 10 in the ranking
Private label posts smaller losses during COVID-19
Private label development differs by region
COVID-19 hurt private label sales across all regions

Non-Store Channels

E-commerce is by far the largest non-store channel and keeps growing
E-commerce leads the way in non-store retailing
E-commerce sees constant double-digit growth across all categories
E-commerce is no longer optional for businesses
Asia Pacific is the key region for e-commerce sales globally
Alibaba and Amazon remain top two e-commerce players
UK online retailers buy up struggling brands to expand their reach

Global Outlook

Apparel and footwear expects to recover slowly from COVID-19
Shift to e-commerce will further accelerate even in post-pandemic era




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