May 25, 2022
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Cash-strapped Britons cut back on clothing, cosmetics

May 25, 2022

As the cost of living crisis deepens, Britons have a long list of items they're cutting back on and a new study shows that top of the list is clothing.

Photo: Pexels/Public domain

While fashion has been relatively strong overall this year, surging inflation driven by rapidly rising energy and food prices, means that's unlikely to last. New YouGov research shows consumers “have been forced to make spending reductions on 24 areas of household spending”.

Clothing is the worst-affected category with 44% saying they’ve had to cut back on their clothing purchases since November. 

That means people are both buying clothes less frequently (29%) and switching to cheaper alternatives (10%), while as many as 8% say they’ve been forced to stop spending money on clothes altogether.

As mentioned, clothing sales have remained fairly resilient in the past few months even in the face of such consumer cutbacks, but that could be partly due to people making up for lost time. In the last couple of years they bought much less special occasion and going-out clothing, as well as less office-wear and items like swimwear, shoes and handbags.

Some of the recent strong spending in the fashion sector has been down to people having made savings during lockdowns and wanting to spend them as they go to events like weddings and parties for the first time in ages, finally get to go on holiday and need to look smarter for their return to the office.

So while the spring and summer seasons have been fairly resilient, we could see some big shocks coming for the autumn season in particular, which will be the first one following the ultra-rapid acceleration in the rate of inflation.

Companies – including M&S only today – have already been warning that they're expecting tough times ahead due to consumers cutting back on discretionary purchases, and with fashion about as discretionary as it's possible to get for most people, it’s no surprise that it’s taking a back seat.

The deprioritisation of fashion can also be seen from the fact that many consumers are having to cut back on events for which they might want to buy new clothes as well. For instance, 39% say they've had to cut back on eating out.

Some 31% have also been forced to spend less on day trips, and 30% on holidays, including 11% who say they’ve had to scrap their holiday plans entirely since November.

And many are also slashing their spending on necessities, which means fashion will drop even further down the priority list for them. Some 31% have “been forced to cut back their spending” on essential food items. 

Spending on cosmetics, toothpaste and shampoo is also lower for 25% of people surveyed and 29% have reduced spending on beauty services like haircuts and manicures. And 36% of people are also spending less on "luxury items".

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