Boom in Clothing Purchases in Canada Anticipated as Pandemic Restrictions are Relaxed: NPD Group

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More than 50 per cent of Canadian consumers plan to purchase new clothing once pandemic restrictions are relaxed, according to a new report from The NPD Group.  

The report indicates the desire for a wardrobe refresh is even stronger when it comes to consumers aged 18-34 as over 25 per cent plan to purchase and wear only new clothing once restrictions are lifted. 

The market research company said the sentiment represents a significant growth opportunity for the industry as the 18-34 consumer segment represents over 37 per cent of apparel sales. 

Tamara Szames, Canadian Retail Industry Advisor with The NPD Group, said the pent-up demand is good news for the Canadian apparel industry, which has struggled greatly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The apparel industry declined by 13 per cent in the 12 months ending March.

Tamara Szames

“There’s that built up demand. Essentially that’s what we’re talking about. For the past 12 months, we really saw the apparel industry, specifically compressed. That compression, when we saw that decline, over 60 per cent of that had come from social apparel,” said Szames. “So that was clothing that was attributed to purchasing for wearing to work, wearing to school, special occasions, or weekend social use.

“That brought down the industry quite significantly. So I think when it goes to wanting to buy more it’s also wanting to socialize. We can see how the two are going hand in hand. We’re also ready to feel good again. There was a stage, if we think back to this time last year, where essentially the market compressed by more than 50 per cent. We saw priorities shifting. We saw some industries really capitalize on our priority shifts like tech and toys and home. We saw growth there. We saw what we were spending on really change. And fashion apparel really was one that took a back seat. 

“Then we fast forward to when we started to get into the new norm, adjusting our lifestyle. We saw comfort. It was all about sweat pants and sweat shirts. And then we saw categories like sleepwear and slippers. And then there was the athletic performance. It was really a distinct story of either comfort at home or movement outside. And now we’re ready to socialize. We’ve had enough of being hunkered down in our homes and we want to explore. That’s where that demand comes from. The demand of wanting newness, wanting excitement and wanting to feel good.”

She said the younger age group is more fashion forward and care more about style. 

The NPD Group report said nearly a quarter of Canadian consumers plan to continue doing most of their shopping online even after pandemic restrictions are removed and the percentage jumps to almost one third of consumers when looking at the under 44 age segments.

Szames said everyone is trying to understand the post pandemic consumer and, through the data the company captured, it is clear that consumers are looking to go back to the stores and looking to buy.

“We also know that the apparel industry almost 50 per cent of sales have been through online. So that’s a big change we’ve seen shift over the past 12 to 14 months but also when we became DIY’s, we became our own experts, because salons were closed and professional services were closed. We looked at some of the data and we identified that even though we did shift to DIY, we’re going to go back to salons and there’s also the demand to go to salons. However, we’re going back to salons at a new rate, at lower levels,” she said.

“Another habit that will stick with us is working from home. We did a survey out of the U.S. and we identified that 40 per cent of current workers could possibly work from home after COVID-19 and 45 per cent said that they prefer to work from home. So all of those trends that came from working from home are likely here to stay with us as our lives evolve past COVID.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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