The NPD Group joined The Underfashion Club to present a seminar named Reemergence – Macro Trends in Consumer Behavior via Zoom! Thanks to Apparel Industry Analysts, Kristen Classi-Zumo and Todd Mick, for joining us to share their expertise in market trends.

The pandemic has permanently altered how, where, and why consumers shop for apparel and intimates. In the seminar, we discuss which categories have been driving growth, which retail channels are retaining consumer loyalty, and what the upcoming holiday season holds. NPD also explored how our return to different aspects of pre-pandemic life, such as travel, work, and school, have affected sales for the first half of 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a time of transformation. Kristen Classi-Zumo likened the market to a caterpillar that’s metamorphosed into a butterfly, reemerging as the same entity, yet essentially changed.

The change of reemergence is reflected in the apparel industry. Apparel sales are higher in the first half of 2021 than in 2019 by $9.5B and have exceeded the sales of the past two years in every month. This year, 61% of people reported the need for a new wardrobe. Clothes are getting dated and worn out, people are going out more, and 30% of men and 40% of women wear a different size than they did pre-pandemic.

Sales continued a downward trend since pre-pandemic in department stores, national chains, and specialty stores. More business was seen by mass merchants, direct / pure play, and warehouse clubs in 2020 since they were some of the only accessible stores during lockdown, with a decline in 2021 that still surpassed the sales recorded pre-pandemic. Off-price stores closed and lost sales in 2020, but have reached a new high in 2021. Online sales remain high, but in-store sales have regained some lost business since people value being able to touch and try on clothing.

Less than half of people miss getting dressed up for social events. Over a third don’t miss it at all. Certain casual categories, like sleepwear and loungewear, have continued to see more sales. Brands are beginning to market these sorts of comfortable clothes to be worn outside of home, mirroring what’s been seen in the real world’s changing fashion sense and need for comfort.

Active & lounge, basics, and casual-wear categories were driving dollars spent in the apparel industry while also being some of only categories to perform well during the pandemic. Work and formalwear sales have declined and are struggling to rebound as they fail to deliver the modern demand for comfort and versatility in fashion.

Nearly half of consumers have returned to leisurely travel in autumn 2021, bringing swimwear sales up with it. The success of travel and swim includes men’s swimwear, coverups, large luggage sets, and sunscreen. Despite 75% of people going out again, going-out attire hasn’t recovered to 2019 levels. People today prefer to be polished, versatile, and natural rather than formal.

About half of people now spend working hours at home. Many companies are adopting hybrid models that allow employees to continue working from home regularly. This creates a new set of apparel needs related to work, leaning towards a more casual style. Workplace dress codes have become more relaxed, less necessary, more comfortable, and more functional with less structure.

Todd Mick opened by sharing that there’s been a $4.6B growth in intimates in 2021 vs 2019. There are 6 factors that are fueling this: innovation in comfort, changes in size, reemergence, engaging with values, pent up demand, and re-assorting of lingerie drawers. Innovation in comfort includes wire-free bras, back smoothing, and leakage protection in panties. Weight changes have driven intimates sales and a trend for more flexible garments. Reemergence in social settings is driving demand for designer bras and supportive garments like shapewear. Body positivity and inclusivity is being focused on to align with the values and well-being of customers. Pandemic conditions and a booming stock market has allowed many people to save capital, building pent up demand and a bullish expectation for intimates in 2022. Lastly, lingerie drawers are being rejuvenated as the changes of time catch up with the need for a new wardrobe, from the foundations up.

As we continue to reemerge, we’re becoming increasingly aware of a new set of needs. The personal and professional life are blending together. With no set wardrobe anymore, brands need to consider how to be versatile enough to create garments fitting for all aspects of their customers’ lives. New styles, trends, and innovations are necessary to stand out to consumers enough to justify their investment into their category. Brands need to take a risk and have a bold enough personality to stand out in a sea of the same. Personalization is key. Whether it’s inclusivity or providing the right features, it’s important to make your audience feel like what you make is specifically for them.

We are so grateful for the time shared with us, and valuable information provided, by Kristen Classi-Zumo and Todd Mick of The NPD Group. We encourage those members who were unable to attend the live presentation to sign into their online account to view the event video.