Trends: What Luxury Shoppers are Buying Online Post-Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic turned consumer spending upside down. With shoppers bound to their homes, spending habits shifted considerably. The luxury market in particular was thrown into disarray – who needs to buy statement dresses and designer bags when they aren’t even leaving the house? Is there any need for Louboutins when you’re doing your weekly shop?

Now – at last – the world is entering the final stage of the pandemic. But as vaccinations help to return people into the world, will consumers be keen to switch from loungewear back to luxury goods? HERO® has the latest data from leading brands to enlighten us on the breaking trends in the luxury retail market.

Pre-pandemic shopping habits are slowly coming back

After a year spent mostly at home, spending is now beginning to reflect the opening up of society. National lockdowns in the UK and overseas are beginning to relax, allowing people more freedom to meet up, go shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, and enjoy evenings out with loved ones at restaurants and cinemas.

Though society’s return to normal is happening in cautious stages, it’s clear that everybody is eager to re-enter the world, and consumer spending is reflecting these changing circumstances. Hero’s shopper data highlights which luxury trends consumers are ready to reinvest in

Leisure wear is out, formal wear is in

We can see the remnants of this in consumer spending at one leading menswear brand between January and April 2021. Hero looked at purchases made in January and February, and compared them to those made in March and April. These two periods represent the turning of the tide in the battle against the pandemic: though vaccines were beginning to roll out across the UK at the beginning of the year, the effectiveness and speed of this delivery was still unclear, and consumers were still looking ahead towards months of uncertainty regarding lockdowns. By March and April, though, it was clear that the vaccination programmes were making an impact, and the market had more clarity about the imminent relaxation of rules.

This is reflected in sales. From period to period, the sales of men’s shirts and polo shirts increased notably (21% and 73% respectively). The much less formal henley-style t-shirt, however, saw a drop in sales of -88%. With consumers anticipating a return to work, it’s clear that office-friendly smart and smart-casual purchases were top of the agenda, rather than comfortable clothing that can be worn around the house.

This is reflected in sales. From period to period, the sales of men’s shirts and polo shirts increased notably (21% and 73% respectively). The much less formal henley-style t-shirt, however, saw a drop in sales of -88%. With consumers anticipating a return to work, it’s clear that office-friendly smart and smart-casual purchases were top of the agenda, rather than comfortable clothing that can be worn around the house.

Women’s footwear sales adapt to changing habits

Another leading clothes retailer has seen two notable trends when comparing sales of women’s clothing during Q4 of 2020 and those made in Q1 2021. Firstly, a decrease in sales of sneakers by -46%. Casual footwear was the only footwear anyone needed during peak lockdown – whether it was worn to lounge around the garden in, or during a run around the local park (one of the few available forms of exercise outside the home). Now demand is dropping off, whilst it has increased by 132% for sandals and heels.

Vacation wear purchases are on the rise

The same retailer has also seen a huge increase in demand for swimwear (+290%). Whilst seasonal demand will certainly play a role in this increase, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that except for those lucky few with pools at home, swimming has been almost entirely off of the menu for over a year now. So this year seasonal demand is unhampered by the same restrictions as 2020 and, alongside the need to update existing purchases that are now two years out of date, it’s clear women are looking forward to getting back in the pool, or jetting off to somewhere with white sands and clear blue seas.

With the immediate future promising more opportunities to go out and see friends or travel to new places, it’s perhaps no surprise that one luxury retailer has reported an increase in share of sales from 28% to 33% when comparing March and April last year to the same period in 2021. At the same time, the sales share for skincare products declined from 14% to 11%.

Last year, with the future promising isolation indoors, consumers looked for luxury elsewhere, and pampering themselves was high up the agenda. Now, with new social events to look forward to (and perhaps a freshly-pampered lockdown belly to squeeze into their favourite jeans), new clothes are back on the menu. Office-friendly collared shirts and tees are replacing leisurewear purchases, whilst women are choosing to swap sneakers for swimwear and sandals.

The message for ecommerce managers is clear. Focus your marketing on the promise of the months ahead – of drinks with friends after work, or luxurious beach holidays. After months at home in high-end sweats, consumers are excited to look and feel great as they get back into the world.

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Add the “IRL” experience to your online store, with the #1 virtual shopping platform. Headquarted in London and New York. Hero is trusted by brands including Levi’s, Nike, Herman Miller and LVMH.