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Fashion to lose £14bn as a result of COVID-19 crisis

Lauretta Roberts
20 April 2020

The UK fashion and footwear market is set to be the worst hit retail sector by the COVID-19 crisis losing £14bn, or 26.1%, in sales versus 2019.

According to GlobalData, clothing chains will be among the last to re-open after as lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted, causing further misery for the sector.

"As the government has extended the UK lockdown for at least three more weeks, we expect that offline clothing & footwear sales in 2020 will further contract, falling 33.6% on the year, as the demand for fashion is increasingly decimated.

"With other European countries, such as Austria and Italy, gradually loosening their restrictions and keeping most non-essential stores closed, we expect fashion stores in the UK to remain shuttered for a number of weeks once the lockdown is eventually lifted, and not begin reopening until June,” said Chloe Collins, Senior Retail Analyst at GlobalData.

Even when stores are permitted to re-open footfall is expected to remain suppressed for some time as the public opts to stay away from crowded spaces and prioritise visiting family and friends and heading outdoors to make the most of the summer weather.

“We expect several retail casualties within the fashion sector in the coming weeks, with Debenhams, Oasis and Warehouse already entering administration, and Arcadia said to be considering more store closures. Therefore, more empty spaces are anticipated on the high street, limiting physical fashion spend further," Collins added.

Online fashion sales are expected to fare better this year with a drop of 7.9% predicted this year. A number of retailers who had closed their online operations after the non-essential retail shut-downs have managed to get them up and running again with appropriate social distancing in place in their warehouses.

Next is now offering limited online sales offering childrenswear, maternity wear, loungewear and homewares but has imposed a limit on how many orders it will take each day and invariably hits the limit within a few hours, demonstrating their is pent up demand, but not sufficient to offset the loss of retail sales.

River Island, Schuh, Fenwick and QUIZ all took their online operations down initially but have since restarted them while others have been operating with limited services since the lockdown.

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