Consumers Are Already Saying Goodbye to Their Sweatpants | The Week Ahead, BoF Professional

HAPPY DAYS ARE (ALMOST) HERE AGAIN

  • New York will allow small concerts and other live events starting April 2.

  • Daily US air passenger volumes recently topped 1.5 million for the first time since March 15, 2020.

  • Consumers have already shifted buying patterns with post-pandemic life in mind.

You could look at air passenger volumes, store traffic tallies or concert venue schedules to determine when life has returned to “normal.” But for fashion, Google searches might be a better indicator. Queries about high-heeled shoes have in recent days hit levels not seen since February 2020, while searches for sweatpants are experiencing an epic collapse.

Perhaps it’s just the nice weather, but it’s starting to feel like “normal” life is, if not quite here, at least in sight for the first time in over a year. The speedy return of pre-pandemic shopping patterns and travel plans points to a quick recovery for some of the apparel categories hit hardest by Covid-19, and perhaps a come down for some of the pandemic’s biggest sellers. Even with these shifts, fashion may not be quite ready to party like it’s 2019; Michael Kors’ 40th anniversary extravaganza on April 20 will be an all-digital affair, Coachella is still cancelled, and no major brands have announced the sort of real-life events that were routine in 2019.

The Bottom Line: Brands are likely being cautious because there have been several false springs throughout the pandemic. If vaccinations continue at their current pace, and Covid-19 cases collapse as expected by early summer, expect the calendar to start filling up fast.

THE SNEAKER CYCLE

  • Nike is releasing more of its once-elusive Dunk sneakers.

  • Big footwear brands regularly drive up hype around one style, then increase availability.

  • Nike has been the most successful with this strategy; its shoes typically dominate popular listings on resale sites.

It’s sometimes hard for those not immersed in sneakerhead culture to understand why one pair of Nikes might sell for thousands of dollars on the resale market, while another, only slightly different pair is easily purchased in a store at the listed price. That’s by design, as the recent trajectory of the Nike Dunk illustrates. Last year, Travis Scott-approved colourways dribbled onto the market, creating enormous hype around the sneaker style (one pair from a run of just five featuring the PlayStation logo, has sold for $9,000 on StockX). This year, Nike is releasing as many new Dunks as the market can handle. The latest, a suede number in trendy earth tones dubbed the “medium curry,” broadens the appeal of a shoe best known for wild colourways and out-there design. Though the shoe has its fans, it isn’t expected to be especially hard to procure, either in stores or, increasingly, on Nike’s own website and app.

The Bottom Line: It’s all in keeping with the broader branding strategy at Nike, which manages to offer accessible entry points to a staggering variety of customers, from soccer moms to hypebeasts to serious athletes. Soon, anyone who wants a pair of Dunk Lows will be able to have one, and a new hot sneaker will be anointed.

THE ARMS RACE IN ACTIVEWEAR

  • Analysts expect Lululemon to report $1.7 billion in fourth-quarter revenue, an increase of 19 percent over a year earlier, in results due out March 30.

  • The brand has benefited from the pandemic fitness boom, despite stiff competition from rivals ranging from Gap to Outdoor Voices to Amazon.

  • Lululemon acquired home fitness tech Mirror for $500 million in June.

Lululemon has always relied on a strong brand, well-designed stores and a cult-like following to stay atop the cutthroat activewear market. The retailer has fended off challenges from Gap, Outdoor Voices and even Amazon. Now, Peloton is unexpectedly coming up in the rearview mirror. The apparel seller and equipment maker once operated in completely distinct realms, but have increasingly come to resemble each other. With its acquisition of Mirror, Lululemon entered the home workout game, aiming to build a Peloton-like community around a unique piece of technology. Meanwhile, Peloton has discovered its devoted subscribers are a natural market for branded apparel. The recently closed acquisition of Otari, an interactive workout mat, marks Peloton’s entry into high-end yoga equipment, a category Lululemon practically invented.

The Bottom Line: It’s too soon to say whether the two companies are on a collision course, but analysts say both need to expand into new categories to keep up momentum.

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