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Getting Real on Reopening: Consumer Wants, Wish Lists and Wallet-Opening Splurges

Sixteen months on from the first surreal directives on social distancing, many consumers are ready to say “see ya later” to their sweats and get their “sexy” on instead.

That’s according to Klarna’s 2021 Reopening Insights Report, which paired its proprietary data with consumer surveys and analyzed more than 8 million items that the fintech unicorn’s users added to wish lists—called Collections—to discover what’s really going on as people prep for a return to offices, events and more.

In a bit of good news for store operators, more millennial (27 percent) and Gen Z (33 percent) shoppers were more likely to say they missed the experience of shopping in store “a ton,” Klarna found, relative to their baby boomer and Gen X counterparts. And the vast majority, 89 percent, claim they’ll spend more on apparel than they did during the pandemic, with 33 percent planning to shell out $100-$250 each month.

Still, a dominant 80 percent of all surveyed consumers now cite a preference for shopping online, while 46 percent are hungry for streamlined returns and 56 percent are looking for deals and coupons. What’s more, shoppers are hip to the ‘buy now, pay later’ game, with 74 percent keeping an eye out for merchants that offer flexible payment services like Klarna’s pay-in-four plan.

Consumers have new ideas for their closets and clothing. Confirming Edited’s projection that a “purge surge” is on the horizon, the survey documented 72 percent of consumers claiming they’ll soon pick through their wardrobe, discarding tired wares to make room for a refresh. And the items they’re planning to acquire underscore the movement toward look-at-me style. At 54 percent, equal numbers express an interest in snatching up “going out” fashion as well as workhorse basic staples. At Amazon Fashion, skirts, dresses, dress shirts, suits and tuxedo sales have more than tripled year on year, with a Kendall + Kylie vegan leather skirt and ASTR lace midi dress among the top-performing dress-up styles, it said.

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Shoppers plan to round out their looks with baubles and accoutrements, with 59 percent of Klarna survey takers browsing for new accessories. At Amazon Fashion, jewelry sales have tripled as consumers “continue to spend more time on video while working at home,” part of what it calls a “business on top, party on the bottom” aesthetic.

Though loungewear was the star of the past year and change, fewer consumers say they’ll add new options from this category to their collections. Just 28 percent, Klarna found, said they intend to purchase new pajamas, loungewear or sweats. However, Amazon Fashion says athleisure sales in March and April climbed 50 percent year over year in categories like leggings, workout tops and athletic bottoms. A men’s Carhartt hoodie and women’s cropped Champion hoodie are among consumers’ top purchases, it said.

Though many believe vintage fashion is on the rise, Klarna’s data points to a divergent conclusion. Eighty-four percent of survey takers expressed a preference for new apparel versus shopping at resale establishments or upcycling their goods. But secondhand stores have their place; 27 percent of Gen Z and 20 percent of millennial consumers say that stores selling pre-owned merchandise are their preferred places to peruse outdoor equipment and gear. What’s more, consumers looking for fitness and outdoor goods are willing to spend the most on apparel (76 percent) and footwear (72) percent. They’re also eager to experiment with fun new legging styles, with tie-dye (up 174 percent), floral (up 174 percent) cutout (up 152 percent), lace-up (up 141 percent), and blue (up 132 percent) options all seeing strong gains in May from earlier in the year. “For those mid-1990’s-2000’s style lovers, printed and flare leggings are also gaining traction among consumers,” Klarna said, up 75 percent and 30 percent over the same period.

Similar to their seeming disdain for vintage, another 93 percent eschew renting fashion for “never-before-worn pieces”—a holdover, perhaps, from lingering concerns around how Covid circulates. However, 12 percent of Gen Z and 9 percent millennials see themselves borrowing clothes from a company in the next six months, largely to attend weddings and hit the social scene.

Throwback fashion continues to captivate, according to Klarna. Eighteen-to-25-year-olds are most excited about leggings (24 percent), corsets (18 percent) and glitter (17 percent) while millennials up to 36 years of age welcome the return of animal prints (23 percent) and low-rise pants (20 percent). This dovetails with consumers’ enthusiasm about the return of in-person events. They’re most looking forward to attending festivals and fairs (62 percent), though concerts followed closely (58 percent) and arts and theater events also put in a strong showing (41 percent). In all, 69 percent of consumers have plans to make an in-person event part of their experience in the next half year, and 70 percent are “willing to spend more money to have great in- person experiences now compared to prior to the pandemic,” Klarna said.

Though Pantone picked a yellow-and-gray duo for 2021 to replace last year’s Classic Blue Color of the Year, Klarna says the shade of sea and sky “stands out on a crowded color palette.” Aquamarine and black, it added, are “two other shades shoppers want to wear more frequently.”

Sneakers, (47 percent) remain a favorite choice in footwear, beating out sandals (37 percent) and flip-flops (33 percent) as consumers’ go-to summer style. Nike effected a clean sweep as the brand most shoppers saved to their Klarna Collections in May, with the classic white Air Force 1 leading the Top 5. Four Air Jordan colorways rounded out the list.

Living virtually for much of 2020 and part of 2021 has illustrated what’s possible through digital, and livestream shopping could benefit from this movement. Sixty percent of consumers who have participated in a livestream shopping event say it enhanced their shopping experience, Klarna found, noting that just 25 percent of its survey respondents confirmed engaging with a streamed commerce event. Of note, 47 percent said they’d prefer livestreaming to in-store shopping and for another 38 percent, it beats out a regular e-commerce experience. Baby Boomer (28 percent) and Gen X (27 percent) participation in livestreaming outpaces millennials’ (23 percent) and Gen Z (20 percent), despite the prevailing narratives of younger generations’ digital prowess.

“Maybe having been raised on a steady diet of QVC and HSN, these audiences recognize the allure of discovering new products and connecting with fellow shoppers from the comfort of home,” Klarna concluded.