For months, fashion industry entrepreneurs and retailers have been struggling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic while at the same time trying to map out future strategies in a rapidly-evolving commercial environment, and the same applied to brands and retailers in the sporting goods sector. In a webinar titled “2022 Fashion Market, Shifts & Strategies,” hosted online by Expo Riva Schuh on Nov. 10, Maria Eugenia Errobidarte, senior consultant at WGSN Mindset, pointed to five strategies she thinks will prove successful in the altered commercial landscape.
The first one entails a focus on wellness. “Mental and physical health are at the basis of consumer concern,” Errobidarte observed, pointing out that we now live in a world where every day we talk about face masks and vaccines. “We spend more on hand sanitisers and medicines. We spend much more time at home, so hair care is increasing as well as the desire to remain in shape.”
This focus on well-being will expand opportunities in both sports equipment and apparel, even in the 55-74 age bracket - a “surprising” finding, according to Errobidarte. As examples of companies heading in this direction, she cited the U.S. retailer Target, which launched an activewear collection “that is going very well,” partly because it has focused on diversity and because sportswear works well with older consumers. She then cited Foot Balance, a company which makes custom insoles, and Adidas, which has developed a sneaker with a chip that allows it to sync with “Fifa Mobile,” a football video game by Electronic Arts that allows players to keep in shape during lockdowns.
Sustainability is another area where opportunities will increase, also in the fashion secdtor. “People who shop look for projects that are attentive to resource use, sustainability, longevity and functionality,” Errobidarte explained. She said she sees also a trend toward “responsible consumption.” In this sense, the consultant cited examples like Farfetch, the luxury-focused e-commerce platforms, which launched a service in the U.K. together with Thrift+ whereby users can drop off unwanted garments at a “click-and-collect” location. Once the products are reconditioned and sold, one-third of the proceeds go to a charity of the service user’s choice and another third is converted into a voucher for further purchases on Farfetch. Another example cited by the expert is the ReVIVO service of Vivobarefoot, whereby its shoes are reconditioned and made newly available for purchase.
A third area of development is what Errobidarte referred to as “localism,” which sees many consumers returning to local shopping as pandemic-contrasting rules are forcing a change in habits. This creates space for “a new connection with local brands and retailers.” This trend toward localization is leading to two key developments: a return to artisanal products - in part a result of consumers wanting to support their communities - and a desire for a return to a slower lifestyle. In this vein, Errobidarte cites Marrakshi Life, a brand founded by the fashion photographer Randall Bachner, based in Marrakech, that is focused on craftsmanship and sustainability and does not follow the seasonality of fashion. Another example is Shekudo, another slow-fashion brand that offers footwear and accessories made in Lagos, Nigeria, using local techniques.
“We predict that many people will want to go outdoors, especially those that don’t have outdoor access now,” Errobidarte remarked, pointing to another trend: a greater appreciation for nature. People’s work habits will change significantly: some will continue to do smart work from home and/or other non-office locations, like bars near their home. This will impact the ways in which people buy shoes and accessories, according to the expert, who explained: “We are now used to wearing comfortable things and when we go back to the office - if we do - we will be wearing a hybrid fashion, that may blend sartorial with comfort. There will also be a ‘return to nature’ with garments that focus on outdoor and urban lifestyle” and a focus on developing new textiles to protect people from changing weather conditions, as Columbia has done with its Omni-Shade Sun fabrics, which offer protection from the sun.
Lastly, the movement to ever more online interaction with brands will continue. This phenomenon, which has been accelerated by the pandemic, will further strengthen over the coming years as brands seek new - and intriguing - ways to engage with consumers, with both shopping and non-shopping, curated content. “We are looking for new shopping, communication and entertainment options. When it comes to products, we expect increasingly personalized-custom products as well as new shopping formats,” explained Errobidarte. She cited the example of Zara, which allows customers to place their initials on some accessories. An idea that could be easily extended, for example, to footwear, with shoppers being offered the possibility to personalize their purchases by adding small accessories to their shoes.