In the new work-from-home structure that most Americans have had to adapt to, more time at home, with no commute, means a dramatic decline in the demand for work clothes. When you can work in your outfit of choice, many consumers will choose their pajamas or comfortable sweatpants over formal business suits and ties.
Looking at Google Trends also reveals that major high fashion clothing retailers have noticed a marked decline in formal wear and workwear across all product categories. A decline so steep that it has forced many major big box brands to file for bankruptcy, including Men’s Warehouse, Jos. A. Bank, department chain Lord & Taylor, Ann Taylor and Loft, and Brooks Brothers.
According to Edited, new workwear arrivals online have dropped 5% since July for men’s work attire and 10% over the same period for womenswear. When you examine the Google Shopping trends and searches, clothing rental companies, like Rent The Runway, that offer luxury clothing items for a discounted price have reported a significant decline in online search and activity as the pandemic has reduced consumers’ needs (and wants) to purchase high-end luxury items.
The ‘casualization of America’ has spurned a host of new changes to what clothes consumers can find in retail stores and online. With major brands like Gap and Old Navy looking to protect their clothing sales, through the pandemic, they have shifted to offer a wider variety of ‘soft and cozy’ apparel options to fit the casual work/home life that Americans have had to adapt to.
So far, the pivot has seemed to financially pay off. In late August 2020, Gap’s activewear brand, Athleta, that sells tights, jogging pants, sweats and workout tops, was reported to be the highest-grossing line for the company for Q3. Their e-commerce sales saw a 6% bump with many consumers flocking to sweats and jogging pants are top sellers.
Likewise, Old Navy saw an increase in their T-shirts, hoodies and leggings sales, even though, overall their total sales were down 5%. However, when compared to more work attire driven brands like Banana Republic, who suffered a 52% decrease in sales in the third quarter, it becomes very clear that casual brands will win out (at least in the short term) until the American worker returns to the office.