What Bridal Retail Looks Like in the Aftermath of Covid-19
This year’s wedding season is a washout. With bans on large gatherings in place to contain Covid-19, the summer wedding season has been pushed to later in the year and possibly even into next spring. Fashion is a major stakeholder of the wedding industry – bridal retail is worth an estimated $300 billion globally. Uncertainty looms over the industry as couples postpone their nuptials in tandem with lockdowns.
A growing number of fast fashion, high street and luxury brands have begun dabbling in bridal fashion in recent years. The rise of ready-to-wear wedding edits is aligned with the ascent of millennials as the largest consumer pool. Millennial brides, who foot steep education costs and housing uncertainty, are more practical and aren’t looking to break the bank for a bespoke piece they would only wear once. Ready-to-wear wedding edits extend to bridesmaids and wedding guests too, with more brands becoming one-stop-shops for the wedding party.
The shift in consumer habits could be the silver lining for bridal retail as brands and retailers get online to market their ready-to-wear collections. Covid-19 has already hampered the wedding season and will likely cause a spike in fall/winter weddings. Brands and retailers will have to re-strategise to fit their wedding edits into new seasonal trends.
The Magnitude of the Impact
The first wave of disruption hit key wedding season events as social distancing measures put a stop to mass gatherings. The New York Bridal Fashion Week in April took place digitally, with designers presenting collections through Zoom sessions and virtual showrooms.
The bride’s shopping experience needed tech help to digitalise too. Some bespoke designers arranged for appointments via video chats, while ready-to-wear brands launched virtual fitting rooms to facilitate shoppers during an emotionally-charged retail experience.
This could shift the shopping habits of brides-to-be, who may be more inclined to shop from ready-to-wear collections online once the coronavirus bans are lifted. The more sustainable mindset that has emerged from the pandemic could also impact the category.
The wedding season typically launches in April and peaks around June. Customers shop further out than a typical fashion customer to prepare for the following months leading up to November, when the majority of weddings occur – making this period key for bridal launches. That said, new-ins for wedding edits in 2020 have reduced significantly compared to the same period last year.
The chart below shows the new-in count for bridal dresses at the four largest ready-to-wear bridal retailers, and how they compare with last year. Chi Chi London saw the biggest drop in new-ins, at over 90% fewer. In the luxury segment, Net-a-Porter’s newness decreased by over 70%.
Spring deliveries for wedding edits historically outstrip fall deliveries in scale – as shown in the chart below. As winter weddings become more feasible amid the rampant outbreak, fall bridal collections may finally surpass spring’s assortment size.
Further reading: What Does Covid-19 Mean for Sustainability?
Key Styles & Opportunities in New Categories
Recently, Omnilytics re-evaluated Fall/Winter trends to determine the styles that have prevailed amid the coronavirus. Trends that have expanded in recent months will feature extensively in the upcoming wedding collections.
Voluminous silhouettes, like tulle and puff sleeves, are trends that are still flourishing in the mass market and are more appropriate for fall weather in lieu of less fabric-heavy styles. Omnilytics detected a 28% YoY increase for tulle dresses in the US, where it is also trending.
Other fall/winter trends like fringe and check can be capitalised on in bridal edits to create trend-led assortments that attract consumers. Winter weddings also point to opportunities in the outerwear category as consumers brave the colder climate. Designers can leverage on this emerging demand as a unique way to reference trends and work them into outerwear.
A few previously dominant styles have faltered of late, indicating a new set of consumer needs. Lace may be synonymous with bridalwear, but the trend has not translated to sales in recent years. New arrivals for lace dresses increased by 30% YoY, but the reception has been mellow, with minimal sell-throughs.
Another dress trend that failed to carry its momentum through to 2020 is sequin – the material was featured heavily in bridal dresses last year, when it resonated more with consumers than it does today.
The white dress is quintessentially bridal. It comes as no surprise that white had the largest foothold in the colour palette for both spring and fall wedding edits. However, more saturated hues in wedding collections are usually reserved for bridesmaids and attendees. The wedding colour palette in 2019 had a large representation of pink, second only to white and the colour remains dominant this year.
In fall 2019, deeper hues were more abundant – particularly grey, black and red. The change in the setting of winter weddings leaves room for designers to capitalise on fall colour trends. As we mentioned in this article, yellow products achieved high sell-throughs in recent months as demand for the colour surged. Brands and retailers can add autumnal shades of yellow to colour palettes for a more trend-driven assortment.
Strategising based on Current Market Situation is Key
The wedding season gets a revamp in this unprecedented time, leading to uncertainty that bridal retailers must carefully navigate. These changes provide a change of pace and a chance for brands and retailers to bring a fresh take to wedding edits by leveraging relevant trends.
Weeding out past trends that no longer stand by referring to the current market situation is vital to create compelling assortments that will resonate most.
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