Dress to impress: Retailers recast spring looks for coronavirus lockdown

Platform Economy: Woman shopping on an e-commerce website

Desperate to sell spring fashions during the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, retailers are turning to social media to show their latest styles in somber, stay-at-home settings. 

The sexy, $298 Reformation summer dress? A model wears it lounging alone on her bed. The $148 lime green miniskirt with buttons? It looks fine next to the house plant.

Skimpy dresses, brightly-coloured jackets and mini skirts typically fly off retailers’ shelves at this time of year. But not in 2020.

Most customers are staying indoors for the foreseeable future as their medics battle the coronavirus pandemic. The challenge for retailers, as Simon Wolfson, CEO of British fashion chain Next, recently put it: “People do not buy a new outfit to stay at home.”

“Non-essential” retailers have already closed their stores in the United States and major European markets. Many are dangling discounts online.

“Here’s to less screen time and more lounging in @ragandbone’s warm-weather staples,” Saks Fifth Avenue posted on its Instagram page. The $550 bright pink blazer is marked down to $412.50.

Saks suggested its nearly two million followers should “chicly embrace the great indoors” in a neon orange $395 twill romper. As of Thursday morning, that garment was sold out on its website.

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The department store operator also said customers should consider logging onto their virtual Zoom meetings in a puff-sleeve wool dress, theirs for $1,880.

“Like many in our industry, we are working to tailor our marketing strategy in a way that makes sense for the current climate while continuing to support our business,” a spokesperson from Saks said.

YOGA PANTS AND SPORTS BRAS

“Having March wiped out, probably having April wiped out, and everybody sitting with inventory on-hand … this one hit right at the worst time” for retailers, said Ron Frasch, a former president at Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks rival Bergdorf Goodman.

“If you have reduced e-commerce, no brick-and-mortar volume and you’ve got bills to pay, it’s a very scary scenario.”

Reformation (@reformation) posted a photo on its Instagram page from fashion blogger Imani Randolph. At home, glass of white wine in hand, she flaunts its $298 Ginny Dress. “Because it’s good to not wear pyjamas all day,” the brand captioned the picture.

Both Saks and Reformation said their social media content was a response to customer feedback.

Zalando, Europe’s biggest online only fashion retailer, said it had seen strong demand for activewear, leisurewear and nightwear, as well as yoga clothes and accessories, running and training outfits.

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But retailers have little to no bandwidth to change course and rush out more items designed to be worn indoors.

“The reality is there’s an enormous amount of excess product in the system that’s going to have to be moved through,” said Steve Sadove, a senior adviser for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Fifth Avenue.

“It’s going to have to be liquidated and everyone’s trying to find any way that they can to sell product now.”

Kristina V, a director of digital strategy based in NYC, said she had been dressing down since the lockdown began.

“Before quarantine I was kind of stylish, but now … it is yoga pants and sports bras all day and sometimes a red lip for Zoom happy hours,” said Kristina, who asked that her full name not be used.

“The funny thing is I keep getting targeted ads from my fave stores on social media but I am staying strong! We don’t even know if we will be out in the summer.”

One sign of hope came on Thursday, on thereformation.com. It advertised spring street-style dresses and tops “for the blessed day you get to leave the house.”

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Via Reuters. Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York. Additional reporting by Emma Thomasson in Berlin and Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm. Editing by Vanessa O’Connell and Andrew Heavens.

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