Primark bets on last year’s fashion for April reopening

Primark owner Associated British Foods says it hopes to offload millions of pounds worth of clothing stock when its shops reopen in England on 12 April.

The High Street giant does not offer online sales and says it expects to have lost £1.1bn in sales due to the latest lockdown closures.

It plans to sell more than £400m of last year’s stock to help plug the gap.

Primark said its 153 stores would reopen in England on 12 April, and in Scotland on 26 April.

Unlike rivals, the retailer had no online operation to shift stock when stores were closed during lockdowns.

But Primark is not set up to sell online, and has said the costs involved in distribution and sales online would mean price rises for customers.

Primark’s £1.1bn sales drop contrasts with online only fashion retailers such as Asos and Boohoo, whose sales rose by around 40% in the last four months of 2020.

Sales gap

Primark said sales for the 24 weeks to 27 February 2021 were £2.2bn, compared to £3.7bn in the same period last year, as lockdowns and closures in the UK and Europe stopped people going to many High Street shops.

Its stores have been closed in many countries across Europe, including Germany and the Netherlands.

It has dates for reopening shops in those countries, but still does not know when it will reopen in Wales, the Republic of Ireland and Portugal.

However, it is optimistic that customers will return to all of its stores as soon as they reopen: “We expect the period after reopening to be very cash generative,” Associated British Foods said in a statement.

It will be selling a mix of new and old lines for the remainder of the year as it plays catch-up.

Primark expects to sell £150m of spring and summer lines that were stored in warehouses from last year, and £260m of autumn and winter stock such as jeans and jumpers.

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the closures of the Primark estate were “costing a pretty penny”.

“However, the retail chain is a force to be reckoned with,” she said. “When previous lockdowns ended we saw demand rebounded strongly.”

While sales were down 15% in the last round of reopening, which “sounds bad”, “in reality that’s an impressive recovery when you consider people had little reason to visit the High Street, and Primark’s lack of online business”.

“Even more importantly, so strong is the demand for Primark’s clothes, excess inventory has been less of a problem during the pandemic, because more of it flies off the shelf than expected once the doors open,” she said.

Why won’t Primark sell online?

In the past Primark has said it won’t sell online because the cost of manning the operation and processing high volumes of returns would mean it could no longer offer low prices.

Being in fast fashion means it has low margins, so “they have to be very competitive on price,” Patrick O’Brien, UK retail research director at GlobalData told the BBC in January.

Online players like Asos and Boohoo were “geared up for it in terms of logistics”. 

“But Primark would be starting from scratch, and would have to integrate any new online operation with its existing store structure which would be costly.”

However Retail Economics’ Richard Lim said Primark was at risk of “potentially alienating its customers” who increasingly expect to be able to shop online.

The restaurants reaching out on Valentine’s day’

For those who are single, tired of the competitive romanticism of a regular Valentine’s Day dinner, or just want a special treat, Britain’s chefs have an alternative for you.

Ruth Smith
image caption”It means I’m really looking forward to Valentine’s Day,” says Ruth Smith

Eateries from local cafes to Michelin-starred restaurants are packaging up special dinners as a treat, in a bid to keep customers coming back when the pandemic is over.

Rather than takeaway outlets, these are sit-down restaurants which have had to adapt to lockdown.

For Ruth Smith, who lives in East Molesey, near London, it’s an opportunity for a fancy meal on Valentine’s Day without being surrounded by loved-up couples.

“I definitely wouldn’t have ordered a special restaurant meal as a treat, I would have probably got to takeaway,” she told the BBC. ” I think, to be honest, it’s not really something that I was aware was an option.”

But this Valentine’s Day she will be getting a three-course meal kit from her local cafe, choosing from twice-baked cheese souffle with fennel and apple salad, individual beef Wellington, vanilla panna cotta with cardamom, and rose infused streusel.

“It means I’m really looking forward to Valentine’s Day rather than kind of thinking, oh I’m going to be on my own and really not concerned at all this year.”

Chris and Vicky Saynor
image captionVicky and Chris Saynor say enjoying a high-end meal at home is an attractive prospect after home schooling their children

Beyond buying each other a card, Vicky and Chris Saynor from Hertfordshire are also not regular Valentine’s Day devotees.

“We made a pledge when we first got together that we just think it’s really expensive to do anything around Valentine’s Day, so it’s something that we don’t tend to celebrate,” says Ms Saynor.

But after many weeks of home schooling their four children, it’s time for a treat she says.

“They’ve designed it to be a very luxury product, so we’re having beef Wellington, macrons, and they’ve made a special cocktail which will get in little jars.”

“It’s a really premium products that they’re using and therefore the price tag fits that but obviously for them they’re missing out on one of the busiest days of the year for them for trade so that’s why we thought we’d do it.”

Thom Parris
image captionThom Parris of Next Door Records says his business was opened during the pandemic, so adapting has been easier than it might have been

Thom Parris of Next Door Records in London said his Valentine’s Day meals are mainly about nurturing relationships with customers, as well as customers’ relationships.

He and some friends dreamed up a cafe and record shop and set it up six months ago.

“We’re not allowed to have anybody in the shop – we’ve been rolling out food home kits once a week,” he says.

Today’s kit will feature duck confit paired with a red wine followed by chocolate strawberries.

“It takes a lot of management of everything, but for us, I think it’s the most rewarding things we’re doing at the moment where we can still continue relationships with customers.”

andreas antona
image captionAndreas Antona says delivering high-end food to his customers has come as a rare opportunity in a difficult year.

Andreas Antona, who owns the upmarket Simpson’s restaurant in Edgbaston, Birmingham, says home delivery is a ray of sunshine ain an otherwise abysmal market. 

“It’s been the worst year ever,” he says. “I’ve grown up in this industry, I’ve never known anything like it.”

“And, in particular, this year, 2021 has been harder, the first lockdown seemed to be a bit of a breeze compared to what’s going to possibly happen going forward, so yeah, it’s getting into a very difficult place.”

rose

He started his home delivery service in May. Like Mr Parris, he aims to keep customers onside in the hope of luring them back after lockdown ends.

He is offering a starter, Beef Wellington ,pudding and a cheese course, or Cornish lobster soup followed by a chicken dish. Those looking to really lash out can buy caviar, truffles and wine.

“You know, people are really going to town on this and it’s something to look forward to, and it breaks up the monotony of just being at home, so it helps everyone, I think.”

Customers will reheat, finish and plate the food, he says, which offers a chance for some creativity.

By Katy Austin

Cannabis-smoking Tunisians ‘sentenced to 30 years’

Three young Tunisian men are reported to have been sentenced to 30 years in prison for smoking cannabis at a football stadium.

A spokesperson at the regional court that delivered the sentence said that it was based on three separate laws – which include 10 years for drug consumers and traffickers and 20 years for taking drugs in a public place.

An MP has called for a presidential pardon to be issued for the three men.

Louis Vuitton designer plans Burundi makeover

A Burundian pattern-maker working for Paris-based luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton whose mother wanted him to study medicine and become a medical doctor has told the BBC how he hopes to transform the fashion industry back home.

Pierre Hardy Mwete – whose mother wanted him to become a doctor – told BBC Great Lakes that he wants to tap into Burundi’s young talent. Quote Message: When you speak of fashion and tailoring, many Burundians think of people on streets with sewing machines to repair clothes.”

When you speak of fashion and tailoring, many Burundians think of people on streets with sewing machines to repair clothes.”

But the 23-year-old, who studied in Paris, plans to start a fashion school in BurundiQuote Message: I want to change this mindset, I want to start a fashion school in Burundi that will teach fashion, just like other careers, and create jobs for talents who do not have chances today.”

I want to change this mindset, I want to start a fashion school in Burundi that will teach fashion, just like other careers, and create jobs for talents who do not have chances today.”

Many Burundians consider fashion design to be a poor-paying job and discourage young people from such a career – an attitude the young pattern-maker hopes to change.

Pierre Hardy Mwete adjusting the clothes of model during a fashion shoot

Pierre Cardin: French fashion designer buried in Paris

The renowned French fashion designer Pierre Cardin has been buried at a private ceremony in Paris.

Cardin – who died on Tuesday at the age of 98 – was laid to rest at the city’s Montmartre Ceremony.

The black coffin was adorned with a sword of his own design, the blade resembling a pair of scissors intertwined with the eye of a needle, a thimble and a spool of thread. 

He was interred with his former partner Andre Oliver, who died in 1993.

Born Pietro Costante Cardin in 1922, the Italian moved to France as a child and became a naturalised citizen. 

During his more than 70-year career he revolutionised fashion, helping to usher in a “golden age” of couture after World War Two with his modern style. 

He set up his own fashion company in 1950 and made his name with visionary designs like the iconic bubble dress in 1954 and his Space Age collection in 1964.

Members of his family confirmed his death at a hospital near Paris on Tuesday, telling AFP news agency of their pride for his “tenacious ambition and the daring he has shown throughout his life”.

News of his death drew glowing tributes from across the world of fashion, with fellow French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier thanking him for “opening the doors to fashion and for making my dream possible”.

Fashion lookahead: Eight major 2021 looks from tie-dye to pastels

If you clicked on this article looking for sharp, insightful, industry-leading knowledge about the fashion industry, you’ve possibly come to the wrong place.

A model at the Christian Siriano fashion show in September 2020
image captionSome fashion shows moved outdoors this year, while designers like Christian Siriano built facemasks into their collections

After all, this time last year we said the big styles for 2020 would include buttery leather, floral prints and bucket hats.

What actually transpired was a year of facemasks, slippers and jogging bottoms as the country worked from home and social events were cancelled.

Still, we’re feeling more confident about our predictions for 2021. The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine should hopefully mean we will once again see other human beings in the coming year, which means now is the time to start thinking about post-lockdown looks.

One interesting side effect of the pandemic is that some designers reined in their usual experimentation and extravagance and instead prioritised practicality, opting to showcase clothes which were “more thoughtful and realistic”, according to Vogue.

“For the first time in a long time, these looked like clothes that are meant to be worn,” added the magazine, which is always a bonus when being charged £800 for a T-shirt.

Here are seven of the major trends for 2021:

1. See-through layers

L-R: Models wearing Chicco Mao Sportmax, Dior, Fendi
image captionL-R: Models wearing Chicco Mao Sportmax, Dior, Fendi

You might think of yourself as the kind of sceptical person who can see right through the fashion industry’s latest money-grabbing trends. 

Well, now you can quite literally see through them thanks to these transparent outfits made of lace, mesh or sheer, which are going to be big in 2021.

“Shed winter’s dense layers in exchange for spring’s light peek-a-boo pieces,” suggested Marie Claire. “Designers like Dior mixed sheers with barely there underpinnings, while Sportmax paired transparent overlays with fuller coverage slip dresses.”

Fashionista advised that these designs aren’t intended to provide the X-Ray treatment. “Instead, the transparent clothes act as layering pieces to add intrigue to standard tops and bottoms,” they said.

Roughly translated, that means: for goodness sake don’t forget to wear something less see-through underneath.

2. Strong shoulders

L-R: Balmain, Christian Siriano, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen
image captionL-R: Balmain, Christian Siriano, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen

You grace me with your cold shoulder, sang Adele in 2008.

We grace you with our bold shoulders, say Balenciaga in 2021.

The luxury fashion house showed lots of outfits with prominent shoulders during Paris Fashion Week in March, and many others have been experimenting with the idea too.

“The peaked shoulders at Balmain and Balenciaga will cut through space with glamour and a bit of grit,” said Vogue. “Big time shoulders are not new, but they are not going away either.”

The good thing about this one is your head and shoulders are usually all anybody can see of you on Zoom, so it’s one of the few styles that can actually be appreciated virtually.

3. Fringes

L-R: Post Archive Faction (hoodie only), Palm Angels, Kristina Fidelskaya
image captionL-R: Post Archive Faction (hoodie only), Palm Angels, Kristina Fidelskaya (suit only)

Claudia Winkleman will be delighted to see that long fringes are back in style, although these are the fabric kind rather than the so-low-you-can’t-read-the-autocue hair kind.

“It’ll be hard to resist twirling all day long with this trend,” said Cosmopolitan. “With every step you take you’ll be turning heads.”

(Partly because the strands of fabric will be whipping someone in the face.)

4. Tie-dye

L-R: Aniye By, TOGA, Gabriela Hearst, Collina Strada
image captionL-R: Aniye By, TOGA, Gabriela Hearst, Collina Strada

Nothing is as stylish as looking like you’ve been sneezed on by a unicorn, and with so many people stuck at home in the past year, DIY tie-dyeing maintained its popularity.

The colourful trend has been popular for a while, but has now filtered up to the major designers, who are re-imagining tie-dyed fabric in their latest collections. Some fashion magazines are relieved the experts have taken over from the amateurs.

“While we appreciate the sentiment of creating your own colourful tees, we prefer how the experts are translating the counterculture mainstay,” said Harper’s Bazaar.

“From caftans to maxi dresses, sweat suits and denim, these shibori-inspired patterns hit every colour of the rainbow, and are decidedly bougie.”

5. Fruit pastels

L-R: De La Vali (suit only), Bernadette (jacket and shorts only), Timo Weiland, Marco Rambaldi
image captionL-R: De La Vali (suit only), Bernadette (jacket and shorts only), Timo Weiland, Marco Rambaldi

If you prefer your shades slightly softer, then candy-coloured pastels could be for you.

“These sorbet-inspired colours are the perfect option for summer and they suit a wide variety of skin tones,” noted The Trend Spotter.

“Choose from a boiler suit in cool mint green or an oversized trench coat in soft lavender – better yet, try them both simultaneously. Suits and separates in the soft and buttery hues elevate your overall aesthetic and will remain one of the chicest styles for seasons to come.”

Which is great news for us because it means we can copy and paste this entry in next year’s list.

6. Netting

L-R: Acne Studios, Noir Kei Ninomiya, Hermes, Stella McCartney
image captionL-R: Acne Studios, Noir Kei Ninomiya, Hermes, Stella McCartney

These nets are the catch of the year.

“While our actual fishing references are admittedly limited, we do know that some well-placed netting satisfies our desire for purely aesthetic pleasures,” said Harper’s Bazaar.

“These nets are not here to keep you warm; they serve no higher purpose other than that they exist as eye candy, as newness, as that something that feels perfectly right now.”

Stella McCartney gets double credit here for an outfit (pictured far right) which contains netting *and* a fringe – so you can be twice as stylish.

7. Holy Moly

L-R: Lula Laora, Burberry, Comunque Yang, Christopher Kane
image captionL-R: Lula Laora, Burberry, Comunque Yang, Christopher Kane

It is never a bad idea to expose large chunks of flesh totally at random, as Christina Aguilera taught us in 2002.

Whether society is finally waking up to her wise teachings or whether designers simply ran out of fabric, it doesn’t matter. The point is, holes are in for 2021 so get ready to feel the draught.

“Showing some skin – by any measure – feels like a necessity after wearing oversized loungewear for months on end,” pointed out Marie Claire.”From turtlenecks to bodysuits to full-on jumpsuits, designers like Prada found ways to reveal flesh in unexpected ways.”

8. Covid compliance

Models wearking Kenzo
image captionAll models wearing Kenzo at the Womenswear Spring/Summer 2021 show as part of Paris Fashion Week

We’re dedicating this last one entirely to the Kenzo showcase at Paris Fashion Week in September.

The fashion house, whose founder died shortly after this show took place, displayed a large number of outfits which covered the face, and sometimes the entire body.

This may or may not have been Covid-influenced, and we’re not confident these outfits would realistically provide much protection against the virus anyway, but it certainly felt in keeping with the theme of social distancing.

The other big coronavirus-influenced trend, of course, will continue to be stylish facemasks.

L-R: Jenny Mollen and Stacey Bendet wearing Alice and Olivia, Liu Chaoying and Yan Jin, Rebecca Minkoff
image captionL-R: Outfits by Alice and Olivia, Liu Chaoying and Yan Jin, Rebecca Minkoff

“No surprise here, the biggest accessory trend of 2021 will be masks,” said Style Caster.

“If you rushed to buy some basic masks a few months back, don’t hesitate to invest in both high-quality, breathable fabrics as well as masks you simply find attractive now that we’re in it for the long haul. The more you like the masks you’ve got, the easier they are to commit to wearing.”

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

French fashion designer Pierre Cardin dies at 98

Visionary designer Pierre Cardin died at a hospital in Neuilly, west of Paris, his family said. He was hailed for designing the era-defining futurist looks of the 1960s and 1970s.

The French fashion designer Pierre Cardindied at a hospital in Neuilly, west of Paris, on Tuesday at the age of 98, his family told news agency AFP.

“It is a day of great sadness for all our family. Pierre Cardin is no more,” the statement said.

France’s Fine Arts Academy confirmed Cardin’s death in a tweet, adding that members of the academy were “very sad.”

Visit Original Tweet on Twitter

Who was Pierre Cardin?

Born into poverty in 1922 near Venice in northern Italy, his family emigrated to France when he was still a child.

He grew up in the French industrial town of Saint Etienne. At the age of 17 he became an apprentice to a tailor in Vichy and was already specializing in women’s suits.

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Successful entreprenuer 

Born to French parents on July 2, 1922 in a town near Venice, Pierre Cardin was a teen when he started in dressmaking and quickly embraced the idea of “bella figura.” In men’s fashion in particular, Cardin designs have a sculpture-like silhouette. The owner of 800 factories worldwide, a castle, a museum and half a village, Cardin was one of the richest men in France. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN

Retro design 

In the 1960s, Pierre Cardin dressed his models in shiny patent leather, plastic, and tight, shimmering metallic bodysuits – all of which are totally hip at the moment, too. Cardin presented the above collection at the 2012 Barcelona Fashion Week. Cardin fashion is available worldwide in dozens of franchise and privately-owned retail stores. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Futuristic vision 

Cardin always tended toward Italian futurism. Painters and sculptors, architects and designers had a significant influence on his abstract fashion designs. Cardin’s ideas were often breathtaking – but not really suitable for everyday use. Few men would actually go shopping in a “Made by Cardin” outfit like the above. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Couture for men 

Cardin revolutionized fashion: each new collection was different, was more innovative. His creativity appeared to be boundless. He was the first fashion czar to sell affordable haute couture off the rack. The famous Galeries Lafayette department store carried his collections, including the above menswear for the fall/winter season 1983/84. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Quality matters 

Fastidious, Pierre Cardin made sure his fashion was cut from the best material. Fabric was made to his specifications. He was usually ahead of his terms in his choice of colors and texture. Cardin set new textile trends, and other couturiers often followed his lead. Above, the designer inspects exquisite tweed wool fabric.

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN

Icing on the cake 

The designer is involved in every minute detail before the models saunter onto the catwalk to present his latest fashion. Above, he tweaked a hairdo here and a hat there for a show presenting avant-garde fashion in Rome in 1960. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

The socialite 

Famous fashion designers like to be surrounded by rich, beautiful women. Or better still, celebrities, queens, film stars and female aristocrats. As a businessman, Pierre Cardin was fully aware of the promotional effect that stars like “Bond-Girl” Ursula Andress had when wearing his designs in the glitzy world of Hollywood. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

The Cardin brand 

The fashion house that Pierre Cardin founded in 1950 has become both a temple of haute couture and a vast business empire. Cardin has sold more than 600 licenses to produce clothes under his brand name. This discreet leather patch adorns the backside of Pierre Cardin men’s jeans all over the world. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Space Odyssey 

Always good for a spectacular surprise, Cardin let male and female models show his 2008 spring/summer collection striding down a catwalk across a desert landscape in northwestern China. A year later, he sold licenses to China to sell coveted Cardin fashion and accessories. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

True extravagance 

2016 saw the last Cardin fashion show to date. This time, however, it was presented in classic catwalk style in Paris, the fashion capital and the center of Cardin’s business empire since 1944. As always, the colors and styles were modern and distinctive. The nonagenarian still spends hours every day sketching draft designs. 

AVANT-GARDE FASHION, FUTURISTIC DESIGN: PIERRE CARDIN 

Crafty genius 

His fashion and the Cardin empire have made the Italian-born designer not only rich, but also a legend among old-school fashion designers like Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. Pierre Cardin was a match for them all.

He then moved to Paris, where he designed the mesmerizing sets and costumes for the film “Beauty and the Beast” with poet, artist and director Jean Cocteau in 1947.

After a stint with Christian Dior, Cardin founded his own fashion house in 1950. In the following decades he built up a global business empire.

Cardin’s futuristic looks

Along with Paco Rabanne and Andre Courrege, Cardin was hailed for developing the futuristic Space-Age-inspired styles that defined looks in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1954, he showcased the now-legendary bubble dress. A decade later, he unveiled the 1964 “Space Age” collection that remains a landmark in fashion history.

It was defined by cut-out dresses, knitted catsuits, tight leather pants, close-fitting helmets and batwing jumpers.

He was also credited with bringing stylish clothes to the masses, popularizing the turtleneck sweater for men and bodysuits for women.

Both businessman and designer

Cardin was the first designer to sell clothes collections in department stores in the late 1950s, and the first to enter the licensing business for perfumes, accessories and even food — now a major profit driver for many fashion houses.

His business sense was controversial. He sometimes faced criticism, accused of destroying the value of his brand and the notion of luxury in general. But he seemed largely unaffected by such comments.

“I don’t dream of money after all, but while I’m dreaming, I’m making money,” he told Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2007.

“It’s never been about the money.”

How covid made second-hand clothing more popular

When the pandemic hit this spring, Fashionphile founder Sarah Davis was terrified about what it would do to her business.

Fashionphile founder Sarah Davis
image captionProducts on Fashionphile were “selling like crazy” this spring, says founder Sarah Davis

She had started the company, which specialises in online sales of used designer handbags, as a seller on eBay in 1997. Now it’s a standalone site, handling $200m (£148m) worth of transactions in 2019 and growing some 50%.

The problem, she says, wasn’t that health or economic concerns were turning shoppers away. Rather, the pandemic meant the sellers the site relies on were postponing trips to the post office.

“We were selling like crazy,” she says. “We were literally selling everything off the shelves and getting no product in.”

The stay-at-home habits brought on by the pandemic have devastated demand for clothing and accessories stores, pushing sales down 25% or more and driving many firms towards collapse. But used fashion websites say they’re seeing a different story.

Resale boom

Ms Davis expects Fashionphile revenue to grow 20% this year, despite the supply hiccups.

smart phone with Depop app open
image captionResale site Depop has seen huge growth this year

UK-based Depop – one of the biggest resale platforms, which allows buyers and sellers to connect directly, taking a cut of each sale – says growth has remained solid this year, after hitting a peak during the lockdowns when business doubled, while Poshmark, a similar site, has said sales this spring were up 50%.

School cleaner Stormee James is one of the newcomers. The 31-year-old, who lives in Ohio, posted her first item to sell on Poshmark in May.

Since then, she estimates she has shipped off one or two packages a week, making about $1,700 (£1,265) from everything from bathing suits to her boyfriend’s t-shirts.

Stormee James
image captionStormee James became active on Poshmark in May

“At first it was kind of a boredom thing,” she says. “It started to get into, ‘Am I going to need this for money?’ though thankfully I’ve kept my job.”

Ms James has turned some of her Poshmark earnings over to her sister and boyfriend, in thanks for the cast-offs they contributed. She’s also spent some $500 back on the site, tempted by purchases for herself.

“It’s so hard not to,” she says, adding that she’s bought some Christmas presents there too. 

“I like that I can prolong the use of clothes, instead of them just getting thrown away,” she says. And, she adds, “You can get really good prices.”

Fashions change

Even before the pandemic, resale platforms were rising in popularity, as fashionistas embraced unique, any-decade looks, minimalism prompted wardrobe purges and concerns grew about the apparel industry’s environmental impact.

As the pandemic boosts online activity, while setting off an economic crisis, used fashion sites are poised to benefit, says Alexis DeSalva Kahler, senior analyst of retail and e-commerce at market research firm Mintel.

Last year, Mintel surveys found roughly 66% of UK shoppers and more than 70% in the US had bought or were open to buying second-hand items. 

People worried about shopping second hand tended to cite concerns about cleanliness, Ms Kahler says. 

But interest in the practice actually increased during the pandemic. 

General view at the launch of social shopping app Depop's 3-month pop-up at Selfridges on August 01, 2019 in London, England.
image captionAbout 20% of US consumers say the pandemic has made them more interested in buying second-hand clothes

In June, about 20% of consumers surveyed in the US told Mintel that Covid had made them more interested in buying and selling second-hand clothing.

Ms Kahler thinks wider concerns about catching the virus from surfaces like boxes and textiles have subsided since the initial panic this spring, as we learn more about how it is transmitted.

She compares the interest in second hand clothes to the growth of fast fashion and flash discount sites like Gilt Groupe after the 2007-08 economic crash.

“We’re a little bit wiser and more aware of the impact,” she says. “Consumers still want to save but there’s a different way to do it.”

Retail challenge

In a June report for San Francisco’s ThredUp, one of the leading resale sites, research firm GlobalData predicted the online market for used clothing and accessories could hit $36bn by 2024, up from $7bn in 2019,

The potential growth has spooked traditional retailers, who have responded by investing in the upstarts, launching their own clothing recycling programmes and working with the challengers to sell used clothes in some of their stores.

General view at the launch of social shopping app Depop's 3-month pop-up at Selfridges on August 01, 2019 in London, England.
image captionSelfridges hosted a pop-up shop from Depop last year

Selfridges in the UK, for example, hosted a pop-up shop with Depop last year. In the US, upmarket department store Neiman Marcus took a stake in Fashionphile, while ThredUp has worked with department sore chains JC Penney and Macy’s to sell used goods in some stores.

“The retailers are going, ‘Oh my god, it’s a thing,'” says Lee Peterson, executive vice president at Ohio-based retail consultancy WD Partners. “They’re of a mindset right now, ‘Hey, let’s fail fast. Let’s try everything.'”

Some companies, including Nordstrom and JC Penney, have since ended their experiments.

While they declined to discuss the experience, analysts said the decisions signal the firms’ internal challenges during the pandemic, rather than waning interest in second-hand items.

Indeed, in May Walmart revealed plans to collaborate on sales of used goods with ThredUp, while European e-commerce site Zalando launched a second-hand section of its site in September.

“Right now, for some retailers that are non-essential, they have to really shift their priorities,” says Ms Kahler of Mintel. “But there’s a reason that everybody from specialty retailers to department stores is getting into the business. There’s definitely demand. It’s not something that’s going away.”

Investor doubts

In recent months both Poshmark and ThredUp took their first steps towards a public share sale in the US. Sneaker resale site StockX has hinted at similar plans. The offerings are expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the companies and put their worth in the eyes of the market on a par with traditional retailers.

But Forrester Research retail analyst Sucharita Kodali says the listing flurry shouldn’t be mistaken for proof that used clothes are the future of the fashion industry. 

Denise Romero, a 21-year-old Mexican-American, looks for a blouse while shopping January 2, 2012 in a thrift store in Brooklyn, New York.
image captionOnline resale sites have costs that traditional thrift shops don’t

“The market is doing really well and people go public when the timing is right, when they think there’s an appetite to raise money,” she says. “I don’t think that it suggests there’s some kind of amazing business in secondary stuff.”

The RealReal, one of the few companies in the sector whose financial reports are open to the public, was valued at more than $2bn last year when its shares debuted on the Nasdaq stock exchange. 

But shares in the luxury resale site have halved since their peak, while revenue at the firm has slipped about 5% this year, despite growth in other areas, like buyer numbers. 

Ms Kodali says technology has made it easier for buyers and sellers to connect, increasing the potential market of second-hand shops and making it easier to hunt down the perfect item.

But the cost of listing and shipping one-of-a-kind – often inexpensive – items also makes for a challenging business model, she warns.

“[Thrift shops] have been around for ages. They’re not going away but I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re on fire,” she says. “Technology enables you to direct that experience a little bit better but you can’t be foolish about the costs.”

By Natalie Sherman
Business reporter