The events of the past year set the stage for digital domination, with the popularity of online channels skyrocketing within weeks of the first retail lockdown. According to buy now, pay later provider Afterpay, by last May, e-commerce had grown 70 percent year over year, reaching $82.5 billion in the U.S. alone.
“People who have never shopped online had no choice but to do so,” Afterpay said, and those who already trolled the web for deals “either expanded the categories they purchased across, or the frequency at which they were transacting.”
Despite economic anxieties and uncertainty about the future, shoppers have still been making a wealth of discretionary purchases through the web, it added, even if their tastes have changed. Categories like beauty, fitness and home décor saw a predictably marked increase in demand over work-ready attire and going-out garb last year.
But beyond that, shoppers have also demonstrated a newfound mindfulness about where, and from whom, they were purchasing these goods. Three out of five Afterpay shoppers were more likely to buy items from local businesses in 2020 from the year prior, and the platform’s users also demonstrated a higher propensity (12 percent) to support Black and minority-owned companies, compared with the average consumer.
This spring, consumers are loosening their purse strings even further, Afterpay said. They’re also buying more goods on sale than last season, data showed, and scouting out higher-quality pieces online. Afterpay says 90 percent of its users pay with their debit cards, eager to use their own money and avoid accumulating debt.
The company’s largest user base is the North American market, with 8.1 million shoppers, and many consumers are based in metropolitan hubs. Brooklyn, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Houston are Afterpay’s largest markets, it said.
Many Americans are graduating from their obsession with loungewear this season, likely with an eye toward hitting the town post vaccination. “Casual-fashion is still present, but we’re starting to see the return of more transitional and easy to style looks,” the report found, noting that while sweats, athleisure and sleepwear still top shopping carts, one-piece dressing styles like bodysuits and rompers are making a comeback. Jeggings—which bridge the now intimidating gap between leggings and denim—are high on consumers’ lists, too.
Shoppers are “beginning to look toward the end of lockdown,” and are also adding pumps and trousers to carts in anticipation of a return to the office. And as travel becomes more accessible, “buyers are scooping up duffle bags, flattering swimsuits, and sunnies heading into summer,” Afterpay said.
When it comes to patterns, prints and textures, a movement toward pique and chambray shows shoppers are ready for summer barbecues, pool lounging and beach days, while monogrammed or logo prints still appeal to the streetwear and luxury-loving set, Afterpay said. Tonal dressing took fashion by storm in recent seasons, with rich chocolate representing a favored hue then and now. Deep, royal plum and a range of metallic color ways have also garnered shopper interest, and are likely to gain strength this spring.
Following a year that proved destabilizing, if not devastating, to shoppers’ feelings of safety and security, Afterpay trend forecaster Geraldine Wharry believes they are now gravitating toward purchases that elicit feelings of hope. “Pieces that make people really feel special are going to underpin the purchasing trends of the next several months, and these pieces might not be the same for everyone,” she said. “It’s going to be all about what contributes to your wellbeing and makes you feel like the best version of you.”
A number of brands have also won out with shoppers in recent months, and Afterpay believes these retailers are poised to dominate spring. Taking the No. 1 spot is Finish Line, which provided access to exclusive drops as well as everyday athleticwear staples. Gap Inc.’s portfolio of brands, including Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, came in No. 3 after beauty destination Ulta, while American Eagle’s denim selection has gained major traction with young shoppers, earning the brand the No. 4 spot.
Ugg came in fifth, while Asos, in the No. 6 spot, benefitted from its wide selection of apparel and footwear, ranging from at-home staples to occasion wear. Fashion mogul and musical artist Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line, with its wide range of makeup shades and the cachet of its founder, took the No. 7 spot, followed by Kim Kardashian’s Skims line of size-inclusive shapewear and lounge-ready staples. Gen Z favorite Crocs ranked No. 9 with shoppers, owing to its comfortable, supportive silhouettes and frequent footwear drops with major pop culture players.