Jul 15, 2022
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UK shoppers' clothing spend surges post-pandemic - report

Jul 15, 2022

Some much-needed good news for the UK fashion (and beauty). While the cost-of-living crisis heats up and consumer slash their budgets, it seems money spent on clothing, footwear and beauty products  is above pre-pandemic levels.

John Lewis

It’s all down to the return of weddings, holidays and socialising fuelling a boom in what’s being called ‘revenge spending’, buying upbeat eperiences missed over the series of pandemic lockdowns, according to research from Kantar for The Guardian newspaper.

Shoppers are spending almost 20% more on clothing than last year, taking the value 1% ahead of the 2019 figure.

However, inflation is having an effect. Kantar also found the volume of clothing items being sold had fallen by about 8%, while the average price being paid for items was up by 9%.

But Andy Saxton, fashion insight director at Kantar, said the higher spending was not just due to inflation, but also to shoppers choosing better brands. “People are making more considered purchases. Impulsivity is going down. People want more control over where their money goes and it has to go further.”

He said shoppers were looking for fashion that was “ going to last a bit longer” and which they would not have to replace “in the next few months”.

The overall resilience of the demand for fashion and beauty products is defying expectations of a slowdown in non-essential spending, despite rising costs and rampant inflation.

Footwear was the fastest growing non-food category last month, according to British Retail Consortium data out this week, with clothing just behind health & beauty spending.

“People are valuing that bit of escapism,” said Saxton, while suggesting money was being saved on workwear since home working became the norm and going instead on items with more flexible use, from T-shirts to dresses, that could be worn for social occasions and as more relaxed office attire.

He added that the reopening of high streets has made shopping a more social occasion while also making it possible to try on more fitted clothes, such as jeans and bras.

According to Kantar the overall market is also being held up by strong sales of essentials, such as intimates, nightwear and socks, with spending in those areas up 10% on pre-pandemic levels. Again though, that's partly down to higher prices, but it clearly shows that retailers are able to recoup higher costs by passing on price rises to consumers.

Demand for sportswear has remained strong, with lifestyle changes made during the pandemic continuing. Spending is 3% ahead of 2019. Sales of trainers are up 20% as casual footwear increasingly becomes the norm, but smart footwear sales are in decline.

Purchases of outfits for weddings and parties are also surging, with spending now 1% ahead of pre-pandemic levels and 165% up on last year, according to Saxton. 

“A lot of people are looking through their wardrobe and realising the last time they wore an outfit was more than two years ago and they need a wardrobe refresh.”

Spending on holiday attire is more than triple that of last year but remains almost a fifth below pre-pandemic levels, Kantar found.

Yet the report also comes with a word of warning. The state of clothing sales across the retail market is expected to get much tougher in the months ahead. 

Saxton suggested the autumn/winter fashion season would probably face difficulties as inflation continued to squeeze spending power in the UK. Meanwhile, supplies of clothing could conintuer to be hit by difficulties with production in China and other countries where Covid lockdowns have led to factory closures and delays at ports.

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