US consumers are looking for social fashion again, but dressing up has changed

 As many fashion and beauty brands wonder what the long-term effects of the Covid-19 crisis will have on their industries following a difficult 2020, when sales of cosmetics, footwear and apparel declined more than $56 billion year-over-year, NPD highlighted dress and shapewear sales as evidence that consumers are dressing up to go out once more. According to NPD’s weekly retail data, unit sales of women’s dresses in the U.S. increased 50% in the week before Easter 2021, in comparison to the same week in 2019. As pointed out by NPD apparel analyst Kristen Class-Zummo in a release, this shows that female consumers were “ready to go out and see family for the holiday, and […] wanted to wear something new.”

Sales of shapewear have also seen solid growth since February, suggesting that women are again looking to smooth, slim and shape in order to wear more dressed-up looks. However, Classi-Zumo also believes that, moving forward, the category will need to innovate so as to keep up with changing consumer priorities. In particular, the analyst emphasized that comfort and versatility will be significantly more important for consumers who now want to use shapewear with more everyday outfits. This is because, for many, dressing up has changed, with one-third of the consumers surveyed by NPD and CivicScience saying that it has become more casual for them than it was before the pandemic. This leaves space for more casual dressing up categories, such as jeans and casual pants, to make gains, especially seeing as womenswear cuts are drifting towards looser fits. In the first quarter of 2021, for example, high-rise non-skinny pant fits accounted for only 15% of dollar sales, but represented 53% of dollars gained. Fashion footwear has also moved towards more casual and comfortable categories. Sales of dress footwear were already declining pre-pandemic, falling 11% year over year in 2019. With consumers returning to events, the category should see an uptick, but casual sandals and fashion sneakers are NPD’s bet for the best long-term recovery, as these were the categories chosen by consumers for everyday wear before the pandemic. “Brands and retailers should be ready to capitalize on the momentum in dress footwear during the upcoming months, but it is important not to overcorrect,” said NPD accessories and footwear industry analyst Beth Goldstein. “Shifts were happening in the market even prior to the pandemic, and the continued demand for casual, comfortable footwear is one that will likely stick.” As highlighted by NPD, the return of events and other social gatherings is also good news for the beauty industry, with hair styling products, hair tools, fragrances and contouring makeup all making “appreciable gains” in the first quarter of Q1.

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