Part 1 of a 2-part series…

The pandemic has been a bolt from the blue, jolting every industry to its core. The fashion industry has taken one of the worst blows, with a decline of around 26.4% in year-on-year growth. This comes as no surprise since most non-essential retailers were forced to close doors in face of sustained lockdowns during the busiest shopping periods such as the spring season and December last year in prime markets like the US, UK and the EU. In my previous article, I discuss the complexities of the crisis at length.

With vaccine roll-outs underway, the end to one of the most tumultuous periods in recent business history might be in sight, but we are not out of the woods yet. The second and third waves of virus breakouts in the US, EU, and Asia are threatening to derail businesses yet again.

For the fashion industry, the road to recovery will be slow, long, and arduous with industry experts projecting a growth back to pre-pandemic level by perhaps the 3rd quarter of 2022. Now is the time for forward-looking retailers to seize the opportunity to reinvent themselves, chart a new map for the journey ahead and accelerate their growth trajectory by tapping into the hottest trends in the sector.


Top 6 Fashion Forecasts & Trends

Here are the top 6 fashion industry trends in my view that every retailer should have on their radar. I will explore the first three in this article and the next three in part-2 of this series.

  1. Endless Aisle
  2. Brick & Mortar Strategy
  3. Sustainability
  4. Fashion Resale
  5. Social Commerce
  6. LiveStream Commerce


1. Endless Aisle: Omni-Channel Commerce

The pandemic has exacerbated the need for retailers to develop the capability to ‘sell anywhere anytime’ and never ‘lose a sale’. ‘Endless aisle’ refers to a seamless retail shopping experience via in-store kiosks that provide consumers access to products they want, even if they are not available on the shelf. With visibility into out-of-stock products, retailers can often keep the sale, especially if they can provide delayed but guaranteed delivery or store pick-up options.

Recent survey by Coresight Research indicates 49% of consumers seek ’convenience’ above everything and 61% are ready to pay more for it. An interconnected digital network focused on customer centricity – to meet the customers on their terms and give customers what they are looking for, where they want it, when they want it and how they want it – is one of the hottest consumer trends and a capability area where this is a clear gap in the market.

Most retailers are way behind the curve on their omnichannel strategy, as we can see from the infographic below



Source: Tecsys

Whether it’s online, through an app, or through interactive kiosks in stores, endless aisle capability can be a powerful tool to enhance customer experience and personalization, giving businesses that all-important competitive edge.


2.Brick & Mortar Strategy

Brick-and-mortar stores have taken quite a beating in the last few years from the extrapolate rise of e-commerce and surge in online sales – both pre-pandemic and COVID-induced. Some retail chains, unable to stand the competition heat, have chosen to shut shop. But, for bold retailers, keen to innovate, this e-commerce boom is the perfect impetus for growth and transformation. This shift in consumer behavior is a blessing in disguise, a chance to spin adversity into an opportunity and renew their customer experience journey.

Brick-and-mortar retailers can arrest plummeting sales and make customers, old and new, flock to their stores by incorporating digitally-enabled technologies like click-and-collect, cashier-less checkouts, contactless payment, and digital signage to streamline in-store transactions and deliver a frictionless customer experience. Personalization and cutting-edge in-store digital experiences are the key building blocks of the stores of the future and can open doors to a new era of customer loyalty.


3. Sustainability

Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world leading to around 10% of overall gas emissions. The DNA of the industry is unsustainable – from archaic manufacturing processes to the number of natural resources utilized. To think it took 700 gallons of water to get that 1 cool t-shirt on your back and 120 million trees per year to fill our clothing wardrobes is nothing less than shocking. To make a dismal situation even dire is the fact that 85% of the 100 billion product units created by the industry collectively end up in the landfill and only 1% of clothing are recycled.


In an age where consumers are growing ever-more conscious of their carbon footprint, climate change, and ecological balance, prioritizing stellar green credentials and upholding ethical standards for any business is a no-brainer if they want to retain, regain or attract customers. 65.6% of consumers surveyed said that a retailer’s or brand’s environmental sustainability initiatives were important for them when choosing where to purchase clothing or footwear.

If there is any industry that requires an urgent sustainability makeover, it is fashion. Fast-fashion pioneers like H&M and Zara are looking to mend their ways by talking the talk, but it’s a long way before they can walk the walk.

Time is of the essence for the fashion industry to overhaul its processes and reach its sustainability goals by 2030. Those who can jumpstart their agendas in 2021 will lead the pack.


Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series…

Balaji Santhanam

Balaji Santhanam

Associate Partner, Infosys Consulting

Balaji joined Infosys Consulting in 2021 and plays an Associate Partner role in the Consumer Goods, Retail and Logistics vertical. He is a fashion and retail enthusiast with an extensive background in consulting driving large transformation programs. Balaji has a stellar record as a trusted advisor for customers in the fashion & lifestyle space for the last 15+ years. He is an entrepreneurial leader with demonstrated supply chain expertise and a proven track record of excellence in consumer insights to steer successful retail strategies. Balaji is a regular speaker at retail events like NRF and SAP Retail Forum. He is an alum of Wayne State University where he completed his mechanical engineering degree and completed a few certification courses on entrepreneurship from The Wharton School.

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