Coronavirus (COVID-19) impact on apparel and textile industry in Europe - statistics & facts

There is hardly any industry that went undisrupted due to the consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. With non-essential businesses remaining closed for most of March, April, and May, clothing and apparel retail stores recorded high losses in sales. Financial results published by renowned fashion brands such as the Spanish Inditex Group, the Swedish H&M, and the British retailer Next laid bare the enormity of the pandemic’s impact. On top of that, the dependency of European clothing retailers on global suppliers meant that many companies had to cancel, reduce, or even fail to complete already-placed orders.

Manufacturing, retail, and e-commerce

The coronavirus toll on the European apparel and textile industry was felt most acutely in manufacturing and retail sales. In the clothing sector, production regressed sharply in the period between January and April 2020. For the textile sector, the production decline was not as dramatic, but still at critical levels. It was not until May that the retail trade of apparel, textiles, and footwear experienced a turnaround in Europe, as governments gradually lifted lockdown measures and business continued at a pace that resembled the normal known prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

Perhaps the only silver lining for the sector during these trying few months was the e-commerce segment. For fashion and accessories, many European countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy saw heightened revenue growth and order volumes compared to the same periods in the previous year. Based on year-over-year weekly performance, online retail activity in these countries spiked during April, then flattened as brick-and-mortar shops resumed business and consumers no longer had to rely on online channels.

Consumers are changing their fashion shopping habits after the coronavirus

The coronavirus crisis has made consumers pay more attention to or even reconsider consumption habits entirely. Faced with shortages of essential supplies in supermarkets, consumers became more aware of production and supply chain challenges of the retail industry. Surveys regarding consumers’ fashion purchase intentions and habits in the post-lockdown period also indicated changes in thoughts about and approaches to consuming fashion. In the United Kingdom (UK), a considerable share of individuals was of the opinion that clothes should be made to last longer, consumers should repair more and buy less, and governments should take the initiative to monitor the social and environmental impacts from the clothing sector. In the same vein, more than one-third of German consumers thought fashion brands could do their part in improving labour conditions for garment workers in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. In Italy, while most consumers did not seem to change the way they looked at fashion post-coronavirus, one-quarter of those polled in a YouGov survey said that they were planning to reduce their fashion and clothing shopping altogether after COVID-19.

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Coronavirus: impact on apparel and textiles in Europe

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Performance of fashion retailers during the coronavirus

Fashion consumption after the coronavirus

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