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What the pandemic wardrobe will look like in 2021

We take a deep dive into how this year's hero categories performed and where they're heading next.
What the pandemic wardrobe will look like in 2021 | EDITED

Loungewear, activewear and athleisure, streetwear and sleepwear. While no category will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic unscathed, these have fared better than most.

With consumer homes transforming into office/gym/entertainment hybrids for most of 2020, comfort dressing has reigned supreme, causing retailers to bank on cozy fleeces and yoga pants to offset declining dress sales. 

Following a year in sweatpants, what’s next for these categories that have defined retailers’ assortments throughout the coronavirus pandemic? And how can non-comfort categories such as denim and suiting recover? 

In our latest webinar series, I was lucky enough to catch up with Carrington Kinsey and Bethany Hack, two of EDITED’s expert Retail Strategists, to discuss this topic with them. 

Carrington and Bethany are part of our dedicated Customer Success team who have been working first-hand with retailers throughout the pandemic to support and empower them to embrace our data to enhance their commercial and strategic decision-making during these unprecedented circumstances. 

Reach out for an EDITED demo to learn how retail data can support your business in navigating 2021.

Look beyond T-Shirts

Using EDITED’s assortment charts, we analyzed what’s been stocked online for loungewear in the US and UK market over the past three months compared to what sold out of the majority of SKUs to understand what’s worked and where there’s an opportunity to pull back. 

Unsurprisingly, T-shirts are the top-invested and top-selling item for loungewear over this period, but supply is overwhelming demand. This style makes up 64% of products in stock for menswear, yet 56% of sell outs while womenswear is 66% vs. 54%. “We saw T-shirt investments and replenishment rise during the pandemic where other categories did not,” says Bethany. “Retailers traded into this area to support inventory levels as it’s a short-lead time product and used this area to inject newness. We could be seeing the effect of this now.” 

With loungewear becoming the undisputed uniform of 2020, there is a risk of consumers experiencing sweatpant fatigue.”Following wearing tracksuits and pajamas for so long, consumers will want to wear something else, more dressy. So here we can see there is an option to do so in cardigans. They’ve seen the same success as hoodies with a smaller investment and still fall under the comfort and loungewear umbrella,” Carrington points out. Both categories equal 11% of sell outs for womenswear yet hoodies make up 10% of loungewear stocked online and cardigans are 8%.

Reposition products to combat the “sportswear shortage”

While tracking exceptionally well for years now, activewear and athleisure has been propelled to new heights following the rise in home workouts over lockdown and will continue to boom with fitness promotions at their peak in the New Year. Demand is soaring so high that UK retailers reportedly struggle to secure fall orders due to factories closing across Asia to contain the virus, sparking news of an impending sportswear shortage. Additionally, across the US and UK combined, there are 26% fewer products online vs. last year and sell outs continue to rise – over the past three months, performance wear has seen a 93% increase in sell outs while lifestyle and athleisure is up 109%. 

This puts retailers in a tricky position. Inventory levels are swollen due to store closures and brands are struggling to shift products that don’t fit in with consumers’ pandemic wardrobes. Yet, here is a category that everyone wants, but there might not be enough. How can retailers cater to this overwhelming demand if they don’t have the stock?  

According to our Retail Strategists, it’s all about repositioning the stock you have to create an enticing offer for consumers. “We’ve seen a lot of retailers create new e-commerce strategies where they add specific sports edits to their pages,” Bethany says. “Lots of brands were adding in yoga or hiking edits, providing easier website navigation, enhancing customer experiences but also allowing retailers to re-work their assortments. For example, adding well-stocked essentials like T-shirts within specific edits to protect inventory levels.” Carrington agrees, adding, “There’s been this greying line between activewear and loungewear even before the pandemic, so there’s an opportunity here for retailers to really focus on functionality when they create those edits. Calling attention to thumb holes in outerwear designed for running and flowy fabrics for those products designed for yoga.”

Authenticity continues to anchor streetwear

Virgil Abloh stated that “in the 2020s streetwear’s time will be up – how many more t-shirts can we own, how many more hoodies, how many sneakers?.” EDITED’s data proved that these products have continued to thrive in 2020, buoyed by demand from the pandemic and are showing no signs of slowing down. Carrington weighs in, saying, “I’m not sure if we’ll ever see the death of streetwear as much as we’ll see the evolution and democratization of it over the years. We’ll always see new cult brands entering the market as well as our favorite brands evolving and growing up. We’ve seen in it with brands like OBEY that went from being a cult underground brand to something bigger, and we’re starting to see it with Supreme.” The recent acquisition of Supreme by VF signals the brand’s shift away from luxury, reconnecting with its skateboarding roots and potential for accessible price points to engage the Gen-Z demographic who are becoming a more influential consumer in this space. 

Despite the previous commentary that streetwear has hit a saturation point, it’s been a crucial category in 2020 as a platform for social causes. It will evolve with the younger demographic who prioritize brands that align with their values. 

With many trends synonymous with streetwear style, should brands be emulating these if they don’t have a rich history of social activism at its core? Carrington brings to light that 2020 has been a catalyst for people standing up against social, political and environmental injustices and demanding brands do the same. “I think if we’ve learned anything from this year it’s that consumers are much more conscious of where their clothes come from and the values the brands that they follow stand for. It isn’t really something you can fake, it has to be in your DNA if being socially conscious is something you’re trying to achieve,” he says. 

Day and nightwear becomes more blurred

Pajama sets, bottoms and slippers are the products driving sell outs in the sleepwear market, an area expected to grow as consumers spend more time at home. 

Similar to loungewear trends, sleepwear is destined for an elevated update. Following the trends noted in the recent Spring 2021 shows, cozy items in soft-touch fabrics are infiltrating daywear, blurring the line between products worn for day and night, drawing parallels with consumer’s WFH lifestyle.  

Additionally, comfort footwear brands are seeing a resurgence with the likes of Crocs and Uggs gaining cult status and resonating with the Gen-Z consumer. With fuzzy slides appearing in Balenciaga and Gabriela Hearst’s recent shows and buzzy brands like Skims tapping into this market, slippers are shifting away from purely being associated with nightwear and are now a staple in the homewear wardrobe. 

Register to watch my full conversation with Carrington and Bethany here.

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