The denim industry has been integrating new fabric technologies and retail formats to boosts sales for a while. However, increasing unemployment and store closures are forcing the industry to face an unfamiliar retail landscape. These were some of the views presented at a Kingpins24 panel moderated by Edward Hertzman, President, Sourcing Journal, John Deputato, President-US Apparel, The NPD Group and Mark Cohen, Director, Retail Studies and Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School. The panel focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic is causing enormous changes within the global denim industry.
Boost to online retailers
According to Dupato, the pandemic has turned even the most reluctant consumers into online shoppers. This gave a boost to operations of those retailers’ with a legitimate online presence and able to fulfill orders in a reasonable way. Following their initial rush for essentials items like toilet paper and sanitizer, etc consumers have shifted focus to comfort-driven apparel categories like innerwear, socks and pajamas. These apparels are mostly being sold by retailers selling essentials like Walmart, Target and Amazon. Retailers, selling denims and workwear through these stores are currently doing very well.
Patience and focus to guarantee future success
Though this augers well for the industry, rising unemployment is a huge cause of concern for retailers as it will drive away millions of consumers who will now be unable to shop. Consumers’ priorities will once again shift to essentials as a result of which denim retailers may have to wait for a few years for demand to return.
This year as individual states reopen on different timetables, consumers will spread out their purchases across the year. They expect brick and mortar retailers to focus on sanitization and social distancing measures in their stores. On their part, retailers expect the holiday season to be quite dismal in 2020. However, they expect online sales to accelerate with BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) purchases gathering momentum.
A bright outlook
Casual attire is unlikely to go out of fashion anytime soon. Hence, the outlook for the denim industry remains bright. As long as manufacturers deliver consumers demand for comfort and performance, denim stands a fair chance to be part of the casual apparel rebound, believes Dupato. Echoing the same sentiment, Cohen noted the denim business is unlikely to see any kind of decline from consumer usage point of view. It has always resonated with manufacturers across the world and will continue to do so.
In fact, retailers and manufacturers who have a powerful market share will easily tide over the crisis, said Cohen. They may not sell to as many customers as they were prior to the pandemic but will continue to sell to retailers that are doing business.