Going Online: UK Clothing Brands Shutting Physical Stores

Fashion retail has gone through a lot over the last few years. When the COVID crisis arose, the retail business suffered something akin to an apocalypse: no employees were allowed out to work at the shops, and no customers could buy from them. While the clothing industry quickly pivoted to an online presence that sustained many of the brands in question through those dark days, the physical retail sector has not been the same. The UK clothing brands that have been able to go with the flow and see these shifts as an opportunity arising from a crisis are the ones who are staying afloat during difficult times. These UK brands have willingly ditched their physical stores and moved operations online.

Retail evolution

With many brands eschewing the traditional brick-and-mortar stores we grew up visiting, they favored a more straightforward, faster, more cost-effective approach to selling clothing: moving their customer-facing sales operations entirely online. Whatever you’re looking for, be it shoes, clothing, or accessories, you can find it without leaving your home and benefit from the convenience of door-to-door delivery. Hitting your favorite yearly designer sunglasses sale used to mean standing in a queue and being jostled by other excited shoppers; now, it just means setting a reminder to wake up when the sale begins.

Why has the trend of shopping online rather than in person remained long after the threat of COVID has largely passed? For several reasons:

  • Online operations are far more cost-effective for businesses than brick-and-mortar stores. Cost-effective business practices mean a higher profit margin which is hard to argue with. Better profits mean business expansion and better business practices that work well for customers and employees.
  • Ordering clothing and accessories from the comfort of your home is far more appealing for most customers than leaving the house and sharing an enclosed space with many strangers. It is much easier to shop online from your phone or computer, wherever you are.
  • Shopping online offers the consumer many more options than they could find if they shopped at every store in the city where they reside. If you like, you can even order clothing from halfway across the world- an option that would be far more complicated if online shopping didn’t exist.

Which brands are doing online best?

TOPSHOP

The TOPSHOP brand comes from a distinguished fashion lineage. The brand first appeared in 1964 as a sub-label of the Peter Robinson chain, aimed at garnering a younger customer base. The brand had had various successful brick-and-mortar stores for decades but chose to shut its physical doors permanently post-pandemic. The under-25-focused brand remains in many online department stores and is still going strong.

Vogue Eyewear

Though Vogue Eyewear is still found in many physical stores, they have placed considerable focus on their online store, which has paid off in spades. Instead of putting their time, energy, and money into running their own branded stores, Vogue appears in optical and department stores but is chiefly sold online, where shoppers worldwide have access to their enormous range of classic and trendy frames[1][2]  and sunglasses.

Missguided

MIssguided is, as they say themselves, “forward-thinking online fashion.” Their wide range of clothing, shoes, and accessories offers women worldwide a chance to try on new skins until they find one that they feel fits perfectly. They sell cute and confident, and they do it well. Nitin Passis has led the brand since it began in 2009. The brand is sold under its name on a dedicated site but appears in several online department stores.

The online fashion revolution came hard and fast, but perhaps this is only the beginning. With the continued de-centralization of our lifestyles, including working from and “eating out” at home, it is likely that the idea of shopping online will likely gain more traction than it already has as time passes.

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