The top five selling items in March were T-shirts, jeans, athletic pants, coats and non-athletic bras, according to market research firm NPD Group. Official Statistics Canada figures confirm this. Retail sales figures released on Friday show sales at clothing and accessories stores rose nearly 24% in March – more than any other type of product. “One of the most exciting things I saw in the March data were women’s jeans. [are] up 1% from 2019, ”said Tamara Szames, Industry Advisor for Canadian Retail at the NPD Group in Toronto.
This is a slight increase, but it’s likely just the start of the industry’s recovery, Szames said.
Before the pandemic, Canadians dressed for work, school and to see friends and family, but sales of social clothing fell in 2020, according to the NPD Group.
Szames said she sees “hope and glimpses of the recovery” as March 2021 sales are up 6% from March 2019 – and everyday casual wear is part of the comeback.
“Canadians have this growing demand and they want to buy clothes. ”
This is good news for the hard-hit clothing industry. While some retailers, such as Canadian clothing manufacturers Lululemon and Aritzia, embraced the stretch fabrics and loose fit that many locked in Canadians sought, the pandemic was the tipping point that led others to ask for the protection of their creditors, such as Le Chateau, Reitmans, Swimco and Aldo.
“Although the past year has been the most difficult in our history, thanks to the hard work of our team and the resilience and adaptability of our operations, we are in an extremely exciting position,” said Brian Hill, CEO of Aritzia, in the last winnings call.
Advances in vaccine deployment will likely make things easier, as retailers ultimately won’t have to navigate how to place clothing orders and ship orders during a global pandemic. In addition, stores can reopen when restrictions are lifted, and sales could increase when Canadians get a chance to get dressed.
“Any chance we have to socialize will become an event and those events will lead to opportunities,” Szames said.
Closet review to come
An NPD Group survey found that once restrictions on COVID-19 are relaxed, 65% of Canadians surveyed plan to purchase new clothes. Among Canadians aged 28 to 34 who were surveyed, 28% said they plan to buy and wear only new clothes.
“It tells us that they want this refreshment, this newness in their life,” Szames said.
(The NPD Group conducted the online survey in March 2021 of 1,034 adults aged 18 and over in Canada. The results were weighted to represent the Canadian population. A probability sample of this size would give a margin of plus or minus three per hundred, 19 times out of 20.)
At Vancouver-based clothing retailer Aritzia, that doesn’t mean leaving sweatpants behind.
“It pairs easily with our blazer… to elevate that casual outfit without sacrificing our beloved comfort factor,” said Emily Chow, Senior Style Advisor at Aritzia on Robson Street in Vancouver.
Chow said shoppers seemed to be eager to get dressed and go out after being home for so long.
“There is a feeling of play and excitement. ”
Unlike Ontario and other parts of the country with more severe pandemic restrictions, clothing retailers in British Columbia are allowed to be opened. Chow said customers have come to reconnect after months of shopping online and to find new fits and sizes if their body size has changed during the pandemic.
“It’s a new start for them. “
U.S. stores lead the way
The company is monitoring sales at its stores in the United States, where a shopping shift is already in full swing, to get an idea of what will happen in Canada.
In the United States, more than a third of the population is fully vaccinated and restrictions are relaxed to allow socialization – even without a mask.
“We’re seeing our dresses pick up and our outlet clothes pick up a lot more in the United States,” the CEO of Aritzia Hill said on the company’s fourth quarter earnings conference call.
“Obviously people won’t go to the office as much, but we would like to think people are going to go out as much and need this type of clothing. ”
The NPD Group also collects and analyzes data from the United States, which shows that swimwear sales were one of the fastest growing clothing categories in March.
« [Americans] are looking to escape, so traveling is an important thing, ”Szames said.
Fashion avant-garde in New York
Canadian Yang-Yi Goh has a first glimpse of post-pandemic fashion in North America, not only as a business style editor for GQ magazine, but also because he lives in New York City.
“The mood in New York in recent weeks has felt cheerful. She felt festive, ”Goh said.
He said as more and more people get vaccinated, their confidence increases and they finally go out to see their friends and family.
“We’re sort of getting to that point where we can feel like new, feel human again, and really dress for this moment,” Goh said.
He expects to see men swap sweatpants for shorts and wear brighter colors, loud patterns and flowing fabrics.
“I hope people will try to be a little more expressive and bold in the choices they make with their clothes,” Goh said.
“Carrying things that bring us joy, I think, is probably the # 1 priority.”