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Here’s Who’s Buying Fashion Online—and When Their Spending Will Be Back to Normal

Living through a pandemic has posed unforeseen challenges for all, and those in the retail sector are being hit hard by shifting consumer appetites.

About two-thirds of shoppers have reined in spending in light of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a study released Monday by Coresight Research using data from the week of April 8. That’s up from about half of respondents who said the same just a week earlier.

Consumers are buying more in certain categories, analysts said, including food, personal care, health, and household products. While sales in those categories increased by nearly one-quarter, about 15 percent more respondents said they were buying fewer products in certain categories from the week prior.

Analysts attribute the jump in spending on essentials to a need to replenish those items after a month of mandatory work-from-home orders and social distancing measures. Consumers have run out of necessary items, and are re-upping on their most-used products.

By contrast, nearly 40 percent of shoppers said they were specifically spending less on clothing, footwear, fashion accessories and jewelry. Apparel remains the top category for cuts in wallet share, up about 8 points week over week. Only about 7 percent of respondents said they were actually spending more on apparel, doubling from the week prior.

Shoppers are also deepening their reliance on e-commerce channels for the products they are buying.

About six out of 10 consumers said their online shopping was on the rise, and they were making more e-commerce purchases than they were before the outbreak. That number rose by nearly 11 percentage points in the span of just one week.

Household products take the cake with online shoppers—even beating out food. Analysts surmised that shoppers could be having difficulty using online grocery delivery services due to capacity constraints, or that there could still be a general resistance to the idea of buying food items online.

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Of the shoppers who said they were buying more products online, one in five said they were purchasing apparel. That number confirms a low level of sales transferring from stores to e-commerce in the wake of the pandemic, analysts said.

Among those who are browsing the web and actually parting with their cash, about one-quarter (26 percent) of them are young shoppers ages 18-29 purchasing clothes and shoes. Only about 20 percent of online shoppers ages 30-44 are buying these categories, and just 14 percent of 45-60 year olds are augmenting their wardrobes.

Older consumers are more likely than younger shoppers to be buying health products or books, movies or music more online, analysts said.

When asked when they expect their spending to return to normal, 70 percent of shoppers said they expect it might take three months—or more—to see them feeling comfortable and confident in returning to their pre-COVID-19 habits. About 18 percent believe it could take six months or more, which could eat into retailers’ holiday season sales.

With consumer projections for the length of the crisis increasing all the time, more than two-fifths of respondents now say they expect to see the severe impacts of COVID-19 lasting more than six months from its start.

As consumers continue to settle into their at-home lifestyles, their new habits are becoming more ingrained. Nearly 66 percent of shoppers said they expect to retain the changes in their behavior even after the crisis ends, up about 7 percent from the week prior.

Shoppers who expect to shop less generally also consistently say that shifting from physical retail to e-commerce is a behavior they may retain post-coronavirus.

This week, nearly 36 percent of those expecting to retain changed behaviors said they anticipate buying more online and less in stores, representing around one-quarter of all respondents.