A new survey shows how women’s clothing purchasing habits and wardrobes have evolved during the pandemic, and how the fashion industry seems to struggle to connect with older female consumers. Tamar Miller, former Head of Merchandising at Gap Inc. and founder of Bells Becks talks to FashionUnited about where the opportunity lies for fashion brands based on the survey findings. “Unsurprisingly, the pandemic resulted in a major shift toward online shopping with more consumers preferring to shop from the safety of their homes, allowing e-commerce to increasingly edge out brick and mortar in the marketplace,” summarises Miller.
She stresses the untapped opportunity for brands wanting to invest in getting to understand and meet older women’s needs: “In particular, we’re seeing that many women who weren’t purchasing online frequently before COVID have made this shift, which represents an enormous opportunity for DTC online brands in principle.“ According to this survey, 67 percent of women in their forties and older have purchased shoes and / or clothing online at least monthly (up from 2019.)
Nearly 50 percent of clothing buyers above 40 years old feel unrepresented in fashion marketing
The survey’s data shows that nearly half of older women feel unrepresented in fashion marketing and that just 3 percent of digital native brands meet their fashion needs. “Online brands need to do the work to market in the right way to this audience, and also put in effort to ensure a seamless purchasing experience.”
Miller recommends brands to focus on delivering excellent customer service, especially if they operate in the high-end and luxury segments. “Brands must ensure the initial purchase experience is easy with helpful fit recommendations, reviews, live chat features and more, and should offer a seamless exchange and returns process, as well.”
In the long run, prioritising these elements of the online purchasing experience is critical, both right now and to retain these new customers long-term, especially for the luxury Gen X consumer, advises the founder of Bells Becks.
Casual clothing is here to stay
Since the pandemic started and virtually everyone transitioned to working from home, there has been a significant move toward the trend of ultra-casual wear, recalls Miller. She goes on to say that “It’s important to remember, though, this casualisation of fashion and a shift toward comfort started well before the pandemic, it just took an even stronger hold during this past year.” Regarding the next months, some retailers are forecasting a kind of “peacocking” effect to come into play in the coming year, in which everyone will want to dress up again and thus will get creative and wild with their wardrobes. I’m not certain that I agree completely.
“I do believe there will be a subset of women that dress up for certain special occasions (and going out again will undoubtedly be important), but for the day-to-day, whether for work or the weekend, comfort will persist. I foresee this paving the way for a strengthening of ‘dressy casual’ wear – fashion that has some flair but remains highly utilitarian and comfortable,” concludes Miller.
In this regard, the survey shows that while 60 percent of women 40+ are now working from home, are ready to ditch loungewear to focus on style again. The former Head of Merchandising at Gap Inc highlights that “A ‘less is more’ mentality will no doubt continue to be very prevalent when it comes to women’s wardrobes and fashion purchases. As we see reflected in the survey data, many women have had an opportunity to pare down and curate their closets, shifting to focusing on quality over quantity and lasting staple pieces over fast fashion. Sustainability will be critical, and those fashion brands like Bells ; Becks that are focused on quality craftsmanship and classic styling will do well.”
Image: Bells Becks, SS21 Collection