While physical fashion shops remain closed, the only clues we have to the way consumers are thinking about fashion relates to what's happening online and a new set of figures for late April and early May on Wednesday showed that consumer choices are continuing to evolve.
LovetheSales, which allows consumers to shop all the sales in one place, has been monitoring sales trends during the lockdown and had previously reported that premium brands were seeing a boom as consumers turned away from higher-priced luxury items.
But luxury is back on the rise, although the company said that high street fashion is continuing to see falling demand.
LovetheSales said demand for luxury fashion has shot back up in the past fortnight, with searches for luxury brands up 27% year-on-year. Demand for luxury labels had fallen at the beginning of April but is beginning to turn around in May.
That’s come alongside a 19% year-on-year drop in premium fashion demand during May so far and an even greater fall in high street fashion interest (-102%).
The category that's really been surging is kids' clothing, which rose 151% in April and certain key items are booming. T-shirts have had the biggest rise in sales, up 225% year-on-year, while other notable rises have been in skirts (+161%), and jumpers (+133%). The most popular brands driving sales during lockdown include Disney & Marvel clothing, with sales up 80%, plus Nike kids’ clothing (+72%) and Joule's kidswear (+65%).
Rupert Walker Head of Brand at LovetheSales, said: “It’s very telling that demand for children’s clothing has spiked since the closure of UK schools in March. Normally parents can rely on tough school uniforms to bear the brunt of wear and tear five days a week. Now children are at home 24/7, UK parents are having to shell out for new playwear and sales of skirts and jumpers are booming.
Looking at what’s been trending for adults, it’s interesting that while celebrity fashion choices have been less relevant to consumers during the lockdown, one key influencer is continuing to make an impact. The Duchess of Cambridge — the former Kate Middleton — held four video calls with healthcare workers in April, all of which resulted in huge spikes in searches for what she was wearing. In her most recent call, with maternity staff on May 3, she wore a blue and white chevron sweater by Tabitha Webb. Searches for ‘chevron jumpers’ spiked by 119% in the following days.
Her Boden Aurora midi wrap dress (now sold out), worn in the second part of the interview, drove searches for Boden dresses up 98% in the last week on the LovetheSales marketplace.
And other trends embraced by the famous have also moved away from the Instagram-fuelled excess of full-on celebrity culture to a more community-focused direction. Views for rainbow fashion wear, for instance, skyrocketed 566% in April, compared to a year ago, as shoppers showed their support for the NHS. Lorraine Kelly wore a Boden Erica rainbow dress on Good Morning Britain and in the days after, the dress had a 233% boost in page views.
And reflecting the times still more, demand for fashionable face masks are up 285%, month-on-month in May. “Shoppers are anticipating needing face masks when social restrictions are lifted and many want to use this as an opportunity to accessorise,” LovetheSales said. Echoing demand also seen in the latest Lyst report, the Off-White mask has been one of the most searched-for fashion masks online and is currently sold out.
Other brands seeing high demand for fashionable face masks include US label Rag & Bone. The brand recently released a mask, which is also now sold out, with part of the profits going to Covid-19 charities. Boohoo’s masks have also seen a 218% surge in page views in the past fortnight.
COMFORT AND FITNESS
Another clear trend throughout the lockdown has been a big demand for activewear. Demand here has continued to shoot up in May (+141%). And it's interesting that consumers' focus on certain categories has evolved since the beginning of the lockdown when demand for loungewear rose 433%. Comfortable loungewear remains popular, but demand is up ‘only’ 69% in May.
At the moment the focus has shifted more towards exercise and keeping fit. Runners and cyclists are driving the trend with searches for running and cycling shorts up 159% and 147% respectively. Under Armour and New balance are the brands of choice for runners, with demand for them up 65% and 60% year-on-year. Cycling clothing brand Castelli has seen the biggest jump in search compared to its competitors though, with demand up 98% this month.