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Dressed Up or Dressed Down? What Consumers Are Purchasing Right Now Might Surprise You

August, the last full month of summer. In retail, August is Autumn and fall releases are well underway. In a time of so much ambiguity – what does back to school look like, or returning to the office – what are consumers shopping for when it comes to apparel?

True Fit analyzed data from more than 200M shoppers across 42 countries, in parallel with the details of over 220,000 unique products from 8.4M checkouts to find out what consumers are shopping for right now.

Where are Consumers Shopping, at Single Brand or Multi Brand Retailers?

Data from True Fit's Fashion Genome shows a shift in order trends from consumers, as the total number of orders from single brand retailers are significantly outpacing last year from early March through August. Multi-brand retail orders are level to last year with little growth since initial post-holiday sales in January.

True Fit Genome data where are consumers shopping
How to read: 0% = normalized; comparing % change in total number of orders WoW to 2019 with the same group of both single and multi brand retailers.

Though the total number of orders for single brand retailers is up close to 70% YoY and up 3% YoY for multi brand retailers, True Fit found that AOV is still down 18% YoY in August. This means consumers are making more frequent, lower value purchases.

What are Consumers Purchasing?

Denim

The impact of the pandemic on Denim has been a hot topic in retail for some time. Looking at the data below, the total number of men’s denim orders is growing at a faster rate than women’s, with order spikes reaching nearly 100% growth YoY in mid-April and again in early August. The total number of women’s denim orders was strongest throughout June, nearing 50% growth YoY. In August, the total number of orders for women's denim dropped below last year’s benchmark.

Men's vs. Women's Denim, Total Orders
true fit genome where consumers are shopping denim total orders

Orders = total number of orders; Findings represent TYpctLY, where 100% = baseline 

Consumers say these are their favorite fitting denim brands – do you see your brand?

Tops

Back in March Walmart reported that their sales of tops was up, but not bottoms, likely due to working via video. Since April, True Fit’s Genome data also shows the total number of orders placed for both men’s and women’s tops have been trending slowly but steadily up, when compared to 2019. But what kind of tops?

As seen below, the orders for women’s tops by category tells a very specific story. Starting in March, the number of women’s blazer orders dropped dramatically and remained well under 2019 order numbers until the end of June, where they crossed the LY benchmark. Since then, the number of orders of women’s blazers is still – mostly – well below last year’s order numbers.
 

Women's Tops, Total Orders

True Fit Genome data where are people shopping for womens tops
Orders = total number of orders; Findings represent TYpctLY, where 100% = baseline 

Women’s dress shirts have followed a different trajectory, initially below the 2019 benchmark prior to the pandemic, but the category has recovered faster than blazers. In late April, women’s dress shirts surpassed 2019 order numbers, peaking in early June. However the summer brought a steady decline to the category, as by mid-August the orders reflect those of blazers, almost 50% lower than the number of orders last year.

Sweatshirts, as no surprise, have had more than a “moment.” Orders for women’s sweatshirts began higher than 2019 in February and have since seen peaks and valleys that range from 25% higher than orders in 2019 at the lowest, and 150% higher than the number of orders last year at peak. Shoppers are still purchasing sweatshirts in August, as we see another spike coming into the month.

Men’s tops tell a similar story when we look at sweatshirts. Orders dipped below last year’s benchmark only once, and in mid-April, we saw a spike in orders, 150% higher than 2019. In August, the number of sweatshirt orders are still much higher YoY, similar to women’s sweatshirt orders.

Men's Tops, Total Orders
True Fit Genome data where are people shopping for mens tops
Orders = total number of orders; Findings represent TYpctLY, where 100% = baseline
 

However, men’s dress shirt and blazer orders tell a different tale. Men’s blazers, which dipped well below last year’s order numbers in March, show two recovery spikes, in June and July-August, with highs of nearly 75% and 50% growth, respectively.

Unlike women’s dress shirts, men’s dress shirts have not seen meaningful growth YoY. Men’s dress shirts crossed the 2019 benchmark briefly in mid June and the total number of orders in this category has not outpaced last year since. 

So what are consumers shopping for then? Men are purchasing denim, sweatshirts and blazers more frequently as of late, and women are purchasing sweatshirts more than business attire.

With industry-wide data, retailers have an opportunity to shift strategy, promotions and inventory planning and accommodate new customer needs right now.

To read more information on where consumers shop beyond your brand, plus which brands consumers cite as their “favorite fitting”, check out the Favorite Fitting Brands report, full of insights from the Fashion Genome. Get the report here.