What Are Consumers Buying Online Amid Lockdowns?

What Are Consumers Buying Online Amid Lockdowns?

Written by Sufiana SharuddinMay 15, 2020

What Are Consumers Buying Online Amid Lockdowns?

In spite of the massive economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers are continuing to shop online. 

Major e-tailers such as Amazon and Alibaba are among the few companies to actually profit from the pandemic as sequestered consumers depend on online shopping to cover their essential and non-essential needs. 

As expected, the fashion segment was not so lucky during this period. With populations across several major regions forced into lockdown, buying clothes was probably the last thing on anybody’s mind…or was it? 

Quarterly results from online-only fashion players, Zalando and Farfetch may indicate otherwise. Zalando’s Q1 revenues jumped by 10.6%, mainly due to a strong trading period in the first two months of the year, followed by a huge spike in sales during Easter. The Europe-based retailer now expects to see double-digit growth over the course of 2020. 

Meanwhile, the more fashion-led Farfetch fell under financial targets this quarter with post-tax losses expected to be between $70 million to $125 million. However, CEO Jose Neves remains optimistic on the company’s future, stating that Farfetch had “not seen any material impact” in the initial stages of the outbreak. In fact, for Q1, Farfetch estimated a GMV growth of approximately 3%, bolstered by the rapidly recovering Chinese market.

Needless to say, these better-than-average results prove online retail is far from crumbling, but understanding where consumer demand lies will be key in navigating the next few months. Here are five insights into what consumers are buying amid the lockdown.

#1 Tops Outsold Bottoms

What Consumers Are Buying Amid Lockdowns - increased interest in tops
Tops and activewear are among the few apparel categories still uptrending during this time. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

Omnilytics data from March 1st to May 12th for the UK and US markets shows online demand for tops has outpaced pants by 1.9%. Overall, the bottoms category was on a downwards trend, with the small exception of shorts and skirts that were still able to generate steady sales, albeit with only a minimal number of SKUs. 

A possible reason for the higher demand of tops could be boiled down to waist-up video conferencing, a standard for all those working from home currently. Deeper analysis into this category signals the demand for tops was not just limited to casual wear, but also more form-fitting styles such as shirts and blouses. 

The same pattern was also detected with menswear, as the performance gap between tops and long pants widened by 2.6%. Interest for shorts, on the other hand, remained positive throughout the timeline, with the style consistently exceeding all other categories since April. 

What Consumers Are Buying Amid Lockdowns - trend movement of shorts
Trend movement for shorts remains positive from March to Early May 2020. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

#2 A ‘Fitness Frenzy’ Hits The US 

The largest trend to hit consumers during this pandemic is health and fitness. According to our latest activewear report focusing on Covid-19, sell-out rates for activewear products in the US quickly rose by 10% in March, coinciding with the stay-at-home order that was issued on March 19th. 

Active footwear was the clear winner of this segment – nearly 10,000 SKUs selling out at full-price, with the $50 – $150 price bracket pushing the highest sell-out rate. Sales for activewear tops were driven by markdowns, resulting in a 58% sell-out. More than half of the SKUs available in this category were sold on discount – the 20%-29% off range had the highest number of products. 

#3 The Premium Track Pants Craze 

An unlikely product to make waves in the premium segment are track pants aka sweatpants, for those across the pond. While sales for loungewear, in general, have increased significantly over the past few months, designer track pants have been particularly lucrative for the premium segment. Even Vogue’s Anna Wintour, who once famously swore off the garment, was seen wearing red sweatpants in a recent Instagram post.

What Consumers Are Buying Amid Lockdowns - track pants achieves high sell-out at full price
Track pants achieve a strong sell-out at full price, beating the overall pants category benchmark of 30.28%. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

Data from Farfetch shows this style is among the highest performing sub-categories at full-price, outperforming the overall pants category benchmark by 6%. A bulk of sales came from track pants sold at the $150 – $300 range with brands like Ashley Williams, Twinset and Peserico leading the pack. 

You might have spotted this Ashley William ‘precious tie-dye’ sweatsuit worn by some of your favourite fashion influencers on Instagram; the highly popular pair of track pants was sold out within 16 days.

What Consumers Are Buying Amid Lockdowns - Ashley Williams precious tie-dye track pants
The Ashley Williams ‘precious tie-dye’ track pants sells out within 14 days on Farfetch. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

#4 Consumers Stock Up on Vacation Wear 

Despite the international travel restrictions and lockdowns, consumers’ desire to travel has not dampened. Insights from Omnilytics’s Luxury: Managing Newness Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis report state, summer essentials such as sunglasses and swimwear are experiencing a huge uptick in sales. Luxury Retailer, Moda Operandi reported a double-digit spike for its resort and swimwear products in March. 

What Consumers Are Buying Amid Lockdowns - chart of high growth categories in UK and China & Hong Kong
Category changes YoY for the UK market versus China & Hong Kong market.

Eyewear was the most popular category for non-apparel in the UK market, with a 183% increase in sell-out YoY while demand for swimwear also jumped up by 128%. The surge in online sell-outs for these categories was detected for the China and Hong Kong markets too, but at a more modest rate.

#5 The ‘It’ Accessory of The Season: Face Masks 

While we’re not entirely sure if a face mask can be considered a fashion accessory yet, plenty of brands and retailers are offering their own iterations of cloth masks online. Part of the social distancing regulations practised by most countries now includes mandatory face masks in public areas – medical masks are the most recommended but a cloth mask is the next best alternative in a time of short supply. 

What Consumers Are Buying Amid Lockdowns - Off-White face mask on Farfetch
The original Off-White face mask listing before it was taken down. Image credit: @pam_boy

Off-White managed to ruffle some feathers after a third-party seller had listed its face mask for €1,278 on Farfetch a few weeks ago – the mask that featured the brand’s signature logo on its front was quickly subjected to heavy criticism, leading Farfetch to take down the listing and release a statement saying the retailer would “block sales of face masks at excessive prices.” 

But, as usual, this controversy only flamed an even bigger demand for Off-White face masks which have been a part of the brand’s regular collection, even before the pandemic. Overall, our data indicates total sell-out for designer masks at Farfetch increased by 8% from February to March this year. 

Key Takeaways

It is undeniable that fashion retail is at its lowest point right now but these insights tell us that consumers still have an appetite for new products. 

Although some of the category shifts listed here are more extreme than others, the inclination towards tops and summer essentials aren’t exactly surprising. Tops have historically commanded a stronger sell-out than bottoms, the only difference is that now the gap has further widened and, given the temperature increase over the past few weeks, higher sales for sunglasses and shorts are to be expected.

Loungewear and activewear categories are likely to continue trending as social distancing regulations remain in place until at least June.

However, the one definitive trend we’re certain will stand for the rest of the year is the face mask. The only real essential in this list, demand for face masks is unlikely to cool, especially as lockdowns end and more of us start to leave our homes. Granted, the demand for this type of product is highly dependent on future situations, that can be hard to predict. 

In times like these, it’s important to remember opportunities will always pop up where there is demand. Therefore, it should be inherent that all brands and retailers pay close attention to what consumers are buying through market insights. That’s never more important than in the coming months before we start trading fall/winter inventory. 

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