Clothing sales bounce back after a disastrous pandemic decline, as shoppers opt for a 'vax summer' wardrobe refresh

·2 min read
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Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
  • Retail sales numbers indicate that consumers might be on the verge of a fashion boom.

  • Data from the US Census Bureau showed a month-to-month drop in clothing sales for April.

  • But the numbers also demonstrate how far the apparel business has come since 2020.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Clothing sales are patching up after a year of pandemic wear-and-tear.

Apparel sales for April had mixed results, dipping 5.1% from the previous month, according to the US Census Bureau. But clothing was up 726.8% year-over-year, showing just how far the fashion business has come since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The clothing business came apart at the seams last spring amid lockdowns and quarantine orders. Many consumers swapped their traditional work clothes for Zoom-friendly apparel, and stocked up on comfortable loungewear for around the home. In December 2020, McKinsey predicted that the entire fashion industry would see its profit decline year-over-year by 93%.

But it appears that a wardrobe refresh may be in line for many shoppers, as vaccination rates rise. The rise of "going out" clothes is directly tied to the concept of the "hot vax summer," a time when vaccinated young Americans will be able to emerge into the world after months of isolation, Insider's Avery Hartmans reported.

On the clothing sales front, analysts seem to agree. "Signs of a new fashion cycle" have emerged and department stores are continuing to recover, according to a May 13 note from Jefferies Equity Research. Nordstrom in particular is an early "beneficiary" of that trend, the analysts said, which could involve a "return" to more formal dress and denim products.

Online clothing retailers have also been a bright spot in the industry, even with overall sales down due to the pandemic. A report from ResearchAndMarkets.com predicted that the fashion e-commerce industry was on target to hit $672.71 billion by 2023.

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