Covid-19 – The Short to Long Term Implications for the Fashion Industry

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Last year on our blog, we wrote about Covid-19 and what it might mean for the fashion industry – you can check it out here.

Now, just a month away from 2022, we revisit the subject to find out the impacts in terms of short to long term alterations on the industry now that we are starting to see some kind of end in sight.

Covid-19 troubles

Back in early 2020, we knew that Covid-19 was likely to have some short to medium term effects – from supply chain disruptions such as manufacturers having to shut down to a reduction in consumption whilst multiple countries went into lockdown. 

However the extent to what the Covid-19 pandemic could mean for the fashion industry was exponential. A huge decline in sales and a freeze in production would lead to questions about where the fashion industry would go after the pandemic was over.

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Short-term effects

There will continue to be many short-term effects for consumers and businesses alike, from economic to social issues, even after the worst of the pandemic is over.

One of these effects is the fact that despite vaccinations being more widely used around the globe, workers are still falling ill and having to take time off of work, which will continue to impact supply chains and production. 

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With people still being vulnerable to the virus, a full recovery to the production process across manufacturing and shipping will still have small impacts on the productivity of the workforce, the amount of products they can produce and the price of them.

Another short-term issue linking to this is that consumers who are vulnerable or have Covid-19 will be unable to get out and about to shop in the ways they once could. Online shopping will be more accessible this way, however bricks-and-mortar shops may still feel the impact of this well into 2022. 

This short-term effect means that smaller businesses who were once in-store only will need to start to think about gaining a better digital presence. Digital is the way forward out of the pandemic, and with more and more customers exclusively shopping online even if they are not vulnerable, this will be key to short-term success. 

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Medium-term effects 

There are various medium-term effects for the fashion industry due to Covid-19, with the last year being an example of how we can see improvements but still under-go issues.

When the Covid-19 pandemic first hit, the majority of us did not need to buy lots of new items just to sit around in, so comfortable clothing and loungewear became the new normal whilst every-day occasion wear took a backseat in our wardrobes.

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Now that we move back into a more regular schedule of going outside again for work and social events, we are not so quick to go out and buy, instead more people are gravitating towards the pieces they already owned but haven’t been able to wear for the past few years. 

This can be traced back to economic worries as well as practical ones – with the majority of people still recovering from financial troubles that they went through due to lockdowns, with furlough pay and many people losing their jobs reducing the amount of income many households have to spend on non-essential items. 

This means that the fashion industry will likely continue to see declines in profits for a while yet and businesses will have to think of new ways to get customers engaged with their products – from interesting marketing tactics to sales.

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Another medium-term effect is the change in the physical fashion calendar. The last year and a half has seen runway shows and pop-ups to everything in between stop, with the majority of large houses events starting to go strictly online. 

Whilst few events have returned in person, a lot of brands are continuing to be cautious with big in-person events, and it’s likely that some won’t return for a while yet, or will be less often and instead of different gendered categories, they will be all-in-one shows with a mix of everything!

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Long-term effects

One major long-term effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is the emphasis that the fashion industry has on the environment. Whilst factories were effectively shut down and businesses supply chains came to a halt, we saw an increase in natural biodiversity. 

Many people also had more time to learn about the impacts of fast-fashion and why a more circular economy is more important, as companies’ greenwashing tactics came to light and smaller sustainable fashion brands had the chance to grow. 

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Forbes said that ‘The disruptions of 2020 have forced fashion retailers into a new era of reckoning. While the top and bottom lines have been the key markers all along, businesses are starting to realize that doing good and doing well can add up to doing better.’

Lower sales placed a strain on large companies to try and do better in order to make sure their consumers before the pandemic kept shopping with them online and after lockdowns had ended. This meant that they had to take sustainability more seriously. 

Lots of companies have started recycling programs in this time, such as Nike and H&M, and the likelihood that others will do the same is very large. Zero waste has also become a focus – with lower impact packaging for online orders and a more transparent supply chain.

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A circular industry would allow people to make the most of the clothes they already have, and allow them to be more smart with the purchases they will make in the future! 

Other long term effects range from permanent in-store closures, lack of jobs, a change in work dynamic all due to finances. With economic issues being the worst of them all when it comes to the pandemic, the fashion industry will continue to live out the effects of this long after 2022. 

Many businesses took a major hit, with smaller businesses going bankrupt and an impending recession, it seems almost impossible that the high street will ever regain its strength. 

With a shift to a more digital focused industry with shopping apps, free delivery, digital clothing and a rise in social media engagement there is a lot retailers are having to battle with if they want to maintain a bricks-and-mortar presence alongside an online one.

This means that in-person shopping will likely become more of an experiential thing – with consumers looking for an innovative way to shop that will engage them to step in stores. Brands will have to spend more on visual merchandising and marketing to keep people coming. 

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Think of anything we’ve missed? Don’t be afraid to drop it in the comments below and we’ll discuss! You can also check out the rest of our blog here. 

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