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First Hints of a Turnaround for US Apparel Sales amid the Coronavirus Crisis?

First Hints of a Turnaround for US Apparel Sales amid the Coronavirus Crisis?
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In our most recent survey, we saw a leveling-off in the rate of US shoppers buying less of certain categories overall, at just under two-thirds of respondents. Although this metric remained stable at the overall level, we saw a number of category movements underlying it—including in clothing and footwear.

The fashion category has been the biggest loser so far in this crisis: each week, our surveys have found it is the #1 category for cutting back. However, our April 15 survey recorded a decline in the number of shoppers making fewer apparel purchases and an increase in the proportion saying they are making more apparel purchases—that marked the third consecutive week that we had recorded an increase in the number buying more, although this group remains outnumbered by those cutting their spending.

These trends have resulted in a decline in the ratio of respondents purchasing less apparel to those purchasing more: On April 15, that ratio stood at 4.7 shoppers buying less apparel to each shopper buying more apparel, versus 5.6 one week earlier and 8.4 two weeks earlier.

Most stores selling clothing and footwear are closed, although some including mass merchandisers such as Walmart and Target remain open. In this context, those consumers returning to apparel are doing so largely through e-commerce: In our survey, we recorded a further increase in the number of consumers buying apparel online.

These trends may reflect green shoots for clothing and footwear sales, and that the category has passed its nadir. However, any improvement is in the context of deep discounting as retailers and brands seek to recover some lost sales, and the data points do not suggest any return to near-normal levels of spending on fashion.