Back-to-School Retail Fizzles Under Pandemic Pressure
As one of the biggest shopping periods in fashion, back-to-school harboured hopes of an economic boost for many retailers.
Last year, back-to-school saw consumer spending surpass $80 billion, second only to the holiday season.
But uncertainties in the new schooling calendar and weak consumer spending will likely result in a more muted affair than retailers hoped for.
Variability in school policies also pose challenges in forecasting demand for this year’s back-to-school. Students are returning to campus in regions deemed safe to but many schools are resuming virtual learning due to Covid-19.
The contrasting demand for in-class and virtual lessons resulted in a mixed bag of trends for this atypical season.
A Delayed Start for Back-to-School
The back-to-school shopping event, which focuses on the 5 to 18-year-old market, usually begins in late July. But for this year, back-to-school, as with most retail events in the age of Coronavirus, kicked off later than usual.
Omnilytics data detected a spike in product sell-out only in the third week of August at key retailers such as H&M, Urban Outfitters, Gap and more. A more modest volume of new releases also indicates retailers are approaching this season with caution to repel the threats of an overstock crisis.
Marketing communication surrounding this season took a similar dip. Mentions of back-to-school consistently packed retailers’ websites last year but were more sporadic in 2020. This was likely due to doubts on school commencement with the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.
Despite delays and fewer communications in place, a surge in sell-outs proved that demand still exists for back-to-school necessities. However, not all trends from previous years will hold up in the coming months.
Opportunities in the New Normal
In this pandemic, parents will be prioritising digital devices and other products to aid virtual learning. Retailers are also promoting items to simulate a typical school environment, such as mock classrooms and backyard cafeterias to draw consumers in.
With parents eager to restore some normalcy to new routines, retailers could profit from back-to-school edits that include outfits for kids’ remote learning.
Another new opportunity with increased digital consumption is blue light glasses, to reduce eye strains from staring at screens for extensive periods.
Along with protective eyewear, virtual learning will shift the focus to waist-up trends as kids continue to express themselves with fashion – despite the constraints. Omnilytics has already observed a surge in striking colours and statement patterns for tops among key retailers in the US.
Sell-out contributions for graphic tops exceeded product contributions for H&M, Urban Outfitters and Gap as consumers gravitate towards bolder patterns.
Meanwhile, kids returning to campus will continue to propel face masks and antiviral fabrics. Cautious parents are demanding added protection for their kids and brands have responded with innovative antimicrobial materials.
Back-to-School Trends to Look Out For
Brands are skewing back-to-school assortment towards casual and loungewear to accommodate consumers who will not be returning to physical classes.
Activewear remains a strong contender for top trends, with growth in sell-out and new-in from the previous year.
Even with the limitations of lockdowns, kids are particularly active. For this reason, sneakers and other active garments are the bread and butter for back-to-school, both virtual and physical.
Waist-up accessories have been trending in the US as retailers drill down on new opportunities in the pandemic. In line with the trend of statement tops, hair accessories and twillies are gaining traction in the market as consumers seek accent pieces to spruce up their ensemble for Zoom classes.
On the other hand, face masks continue to perform well as its use becomes mandatory in many countries and consumers amp up protection in public.
Jeans remain a back-to-school staple this season. New-ins for jeans increased by 68% YoY, met with a strong sell-out performance.
That said, months of quarantine and the rise of comfort wear have shifted consumer preferences for denim. Best-selling styles this year consisted of loose cuts and relaxed silhouettes for greater comfort without compromising style.
Out with the Old, In with the New
With seasonal templates no longer relevant in today’s retail climate, greater visibility and frequent analysis of the market can help in aligning product launches closer to actual demand.
Disruptions of key retail events may help fashion shed old habits of adhering to seasons and the rigid fashion calendar.
Retailers should focus on providing compact but quality assortment to keep consumers coming back long after the back-to-school season.
You might also like
Market Insights Made Easy for Speed and Precision
With the recent mass digitisation of fashion retail due to the pandemic, merchandisers, buyers, and designers are increasingly relying on insights to power decision-making. The need to move away from gut feel to actionable insights is becoming more urgent given the high level of competition in online trading. For many brands and retailers new to […]
Top 5 Menswear Trends for Spring/Summer 2021
Like most things in this pandemic, the Spring/Summer 2021 menswear trends are not of the usual variety. The runway season itself was atypical, with major brands like Balenciaga and Gucci opting for virtual fashion shows to eliminate any risk of spreading Covid-19. Designers are embracing the new normal not just in the way they present […]
Product Matching: The Wings for the E-Commerce Boom
For the average customer, the entire retail world now fits into a 15” laptop or 5” smartphone. It is true you can find your preferred product for purchase across different e-commerce sites and portals. However have you ever stopped to wonder about the magic that happens behind the screen that allows you to be presented with different options for the same product, same model, and same variant?
How to Build a Demand-Led Pricing Model
In a consumer-driven landscape, a competitive pricing model is one that tallies with consumers’ value perceptions. The knee-jerk reaction during an economic downturn is to aggressively bring prices down to attract cash-strapped customers. However, the sudden drop in prices affects consumer perception, leading to reservations about product quality and long-term value. Adding to the situation, […]
The Spring/Summer Fashion Trends Taking 2021 by Storm
This year’s Spring/Summer fashion trends encapsulate current consumer sentiment in the new normal. With the lifestyle changes forced upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic, the trends that are making waves in the market now are far from those that did in past years. In uncharted territory, historical sales data is moot and the need for […]