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Overall Performance Is Recovering But Footwear and Apparel Spending Dropped by 37% This Year

E-commerce gains in 2020 have helped many categories to see overall year-over-year sales increases, but new data from Deloitte shows that footwear and apparel have not been so lucky. In its 2020 holiday retail survey, Deloitte reported that the fashion category saw an overall decrease of 37% in consumer spending this year between March and October – even with online growth.

As brick-and-mortar closed and consumers sheltered in place, online sales rose dramatically: e-commerce accounted for 40% of total retail in mid-April, up from 25% in mid-March. Online sales were able to keep consistently at 35% throughout the year, at an increase of almost 10% YoY. Yet much of these sales were in the home goods, electronics and grocery categories as people prepared to spend time at home.

“The pandemic has caused major inflections in consumer shopping behavior: Driving significant shifts in traffic and spending online and redistributing share of traffic and spending across retail subsectors, with home improvement and mass retailers taking share,” said the Deloitte report.

However, despite the year’s overall performance, the footwear and apparel markets have shown some signs of rebounding. Data collected in the latter part of the year show that foot traffic at physical stores had recovered by the end of the year, while web traffic remained consistently high – suggesting more overall interest in retail, as consumers return to spending.

Deloitte also observed a shift in the way consumers purchases during the holiday season. Although November saw a decrease of 6% YoY in the volume of retail transactions, this was offset by an increase in average order value of 7%, compared to last year’s holiday figures. Similarly, while November’s consumer spending retail figures were only a modest 1% increase YoY, this was balanced out by October’s main retail event: Prime Day.

Christmas online shopping top view. Female buyer touch screen of tablet, copy space. Woman has coffee, buys presents, prepare to xmas eve, sitting among gifts boxes and packages. Winter holidays sales
E-commerce purchases were able to balance out losses in brick-and-mortar during Thanksgiving week.
CREDIT: Adobe Stock

Amazon moved its annual sales event from July to October in 2020, which enabled 23% of shoppers to get ahead on their holiday shopping. Retailer participation was also high, with a number of competing promotions out on the market; average spend was $187, down from the $344 indicated in September, due to the number of deals available. One in four shoppers said the deals were better on Prime Day than during Thanksgiving week.

“Prime Day promotions drove a single week spike in sales, similar to holidays like Labor Day and Independence Day,” observed the Deloitte report.

Thanksgiving week did not see such growth, with brick-and-mortar performing 11% worse in 2020 than in 2019. The restriction of physical stores, combined with the spread out nature of sales this year, resulted in Black Friday performing significantly worse than expected (-18% YoY). This was balanced out by YoY growth of 30% online spending in the month of November, but Cyber Monday itself only saw YoY gains of 2%.

Overall, both traffic and sales have managed to return to pre-pandemic rates in almost all categories, but the growth of e-commerce has not generated the same gains for all categories. As brick-and-mortar traffic increases, footwear and apparel can hope to achieve some of the gains of more popular markets like home improvement.

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