‘Explosive demand’: Americans are ready to step out in style in new clothes after COVID-19

Tyler Adamson spent $800 on new clothes over the last month or so. Laura Kaster spent at least $500 and Kelsey-Marie Mohammed spent $350.

They, like many other Americans, are starting to update their closets with new apparel as vaccines roll out across the nation and COVID-related restrictions ease, bolstering the apparel industry in the process.

“I am definitely spending more,” Mohammed, a content creator, told USA TODAY, noting she didn’t spend as much during the pandemic.

“It’s time for a refresh and I really want to invest in higher-end products that will make me feel good when applying/wearing and add a bit of luxury to my life,” Mohammed said.

Shopping trends: Whether it’s ordering dinner or buying more skin products, our shopping habits changed amid COVID-19

Smaller weddings, bigger price tags: How COVID-19 started a new trend in weddings

In April clothing and clothing accessory sales were up 711.3% unadjusted year-over-year according to the National Retail Federation.

In that same month, spending was actually slightly lower than in March when there was a surge due to stimulus check distribution, Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF said in a statement.

Kaster, a freelance communications professional, told USA TODAY she’d been wanting to revamp her wardrobe during the pandemic after losing weight in 2019 but wasn’t able to buy too much clothing with stores and fitting rooms closed.

Adamson, who works in public health and public policy, is on the same boat. He told USA TODAY he has shelled out around nearly a grand on new clothes since more of the country began opening up after getting into better shape during the pandemic. But it goes beyond fitness, for Adamson, it’s about getting back to regular life.

“(I’m) celebrating that I made it a whole year without leaving my house or seeing friends really, and that the end is hopefully in sight,” Adamson said. “Hadn’t really bought clothes in over a year either.”

Experts say the trend is likely to continue

Antony Karabus, CEO and co-founder of HRC Retail Advisory, told USA TODAY Tuesday that he expects to see the trend continue for three reasons.

“One is people didn’t really buy apparel last year,” he said. “Number two they’re getting tired of their closets and want fresh items, number three they’re starting to go to restaurants and (are going to) travel again and go to events and parties.”

After wearing “sweats and sandals and Crocs” for the last year, people are ready to rebuild their look.

Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s all indicate an uptick in clothing sales

As the weather warms and vaccines roll out across the country, companies and brands are seeing an uptick in sales of apparel after more than a year spent mostly at home for many people.

“Customers are feeling increasingly confident to get dressed up and venture outside. They’re also starting to attend events again,” Macy’s CEO and chairman Jeffrey Gennette said on the company’s earnings call on May 18.

As a result, Macy’s is seeing a rise in dress sales for casual occasions and also events such as prom. And at Bloomingdale’s, a Macy’s Inc. subsidiary, is seeing increased interest in dresses and “dressy sandals.” But it goes beyond women’s clothing. Men’s tailored clothing has also seen an improvement, too, as has denim across styles and price points.

The same holds true for Target and Kohl’s. Target is seeing an uptick in clothing sales after a slow year during the pandemic, while Kohl’s said men’s and women’s apparel sales are returning to or rising above pre-pandemic levels.

“There’s a rapidly emerging emphasis on style and mobility as guests feel increasingly safe in public spaces,” Christina Hennington, executive vice president and chief growth officer for Target Corporation, said during the company’s earnings call on May 19.

Thanks to that trend, Hennington said there is an “explosive demand” for items such as dresses and cosmetics, activewear and more.

Target saw growth in its apparel segment, which had “comp growth in the low 60% range,” according to Hennington. After a dip in sales last year, that puts first quarter apparel sales at 29% growth over the last two years.

“As more people return to work, resume travel and attend events and gatherings, they are seeking out new and updated apparel,” Michelle D. Gass, CEO and director of Kohl’s Corp., said during the company’s May 20 earnings call.

What do people say they’re looking for?

Mohammed told USA TODAY that she is attracted to newer brands, including the Christopher John Rogers for Target collection.

“I am obsessed with Andrea Llosa, Christopher John Rogers, Andrea Iyamah and the list goes on,” she said. “I’ve kicked fast fashion to the curb and am really investing in pieces that are both a statement and timeless.”

And Kaster has visited an array of stores including Madewell, Anthropologie and L.L. Bean.

The desire to add to closets isn’t necessarily going to be short-lived.

Adamson, who has been buying from brands such as J. Crew, Banana Republic, Converse and Patagonia, is expecting to spend more in the near future on professional clothing.

“It is a way to validate myself,” Mohammed said of purchasing new clothes. “It makes me feel like I still have style. As if I’ve maintained or even elevated my personal style in a time where we stayed home, wore masks and sweats consistently for a year.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *