Digital fashion sales saw December uptick despite Plan B curbs

UK digital fashion revenues and traffic remained resilient in December, despite Plan B covid curbs and consumers limiting pre-Christmas socialising amid Omicron fears, according to True Fit, the leading data-driven consumer experience platform that decodes fit and size for leading apparel and footwear retailers.

Website traffic saw digital browsing peak early as shoppers looked to get ahead of supply chain disruption and potential shipping delays, making the Black Friday / Cyber 5 boost more pronounced this year.  Data from True Fit’s Fashion Genome, the world’s largest connected data set for fashion, which analyses data from 17,000 retail brands and data from 84 million active members, showed site visits rose +64% in November compared to October and +40% year-on-year at the end of November.

On average, web traffic volumes across the peak trading period (October to December) were +37% higher than that of 2020, while online order volumes spiked even earlier compared to 2020, up +10% in October and +8% in November, mirroring consumers’ ‘get ahead’ approach to digital fashion purchases in the run up to Christmas.

Both digital fashion sales and web traffic then fell back in December, falling -35% and -121% month-on-month respectively.  This dip, True Fit suggests, could have been caused by consumers buying early, having already made digital fashion purchases during Black Friday, or were due to shoppers holding off making new online apparel buys due to covid restriction uncertainty ahead of Christmas.  With Plan B restrictions announced in early December, a fifth of UK businesses cancelled Christmas parties due to Omicron fears, while consumers limited pre-Christmas socialising to avoid infection or isolation ahead of Christmas Day, prompting hospitality firms to say Christmas trade was down 50% on pre-pandemic levels.

However, while web traffic to fashion retailers sites was down month-on-month in December, web visits were still up +30% on 2020 levels even as stores remained fully open this year, demonstrating the elevated and sustained demand for digital fashion. Similarly, while online fashion sales value remained -5% down on average during December, across the peak trading period as a whole it rose +8% on 2020, with average order value (AOV) also up +7% on average for the same period.

Meanwhile, demand for online fit guidance during peak trading rose +13% compared to 2020, despite stores being fully open this year.

Sarah Curran Usher MBE, GM EMEA at True Fit, said: “Once again we have seen yet another validation of the rise and rise of digital fashion during this year’s peak trading period – building on the acceleration we saw last year during the pandemic.  So far, online fashion continues to perform strongly and next year we will reach the watershed moment when, for the first time, digital fashion sales will overtake High Street revenues, validating the long-term shift in ecommerce demand and the buying behaviours of increasingly digitally-first consumers.”

“As revenues from online channels rise in line with consumer demand for digital fashion, retailers and brands will need to build confidence in shoppers to evaluate brands and products digitally   and leverage data to understand shoppers, their preferences and returns behaviour,” Curran-Usher continued. “This is particularly important from a margin perspective, especially when we have seen an extended discounting period around Christmas trading.  Central to healthy margins is shopper loyalty and empowering the customer to find the right size and fit is key to building that relationship.”

“By quickly getting under the skin of customers’ preferences around fit and size, retailers can connect the customer with only what they will love through data insight, turning site traffic from first-time browsers into repeat-returning shoppers, and existing customers into long-term brand advocates,” she concluded.

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