With work-from-home continuing to be a precautionary measure in 2021 to safeguard employees from the COVID-19 pandemic, formalwear retail brands in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region need to revisit their strategies to operate and compete in the market, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Formalwear retail brands saw a sharp growth in the recent past with the emergence of countries such as India, Singapore and China as major global corporate hubs and growing influence of Western suit culture.
However, with several countries across the region witnessing another wave of COVID-19, consumers will continue the transition to more casual workwear even while returning to the office, some – particularly those in client-facing roles – may still be expected to wear full suit attire.
Ankita Roy, Retail Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “In the long-term, workwear will only partly recover the lost demand, as most businesses are expected to adopt the hybrid working, with a mix of time spent at home and in the office post-pandemic, therefore the demand for workwear will not reach the pre-COVID-19 levels.
“As shoppers are likely to opt for new styles once they return to offices, formalwear retailers should focus on building hidden comfort through more breathable fabrics and stretch waistlines.”
Smart casual workwear had already grown in popularity before the COVID-19 pandemic with an unusual increase in demand during the pandemic. For instance, in India, retailers such as Myntra, Lifestyle and Peter England are offering a combination of formal and casual workwear products, a new work-from-home collections, to leverage the demand for the products.
Roy continues: “Post pandemic, comfort will remain the key to most of the APAC consumers and work outfits will continue to integrate more casual elements. To match the trend, formalwear retailers must adapt or risk having a redundant product offer.”
The pandemic has changed the way consumers shop. As part of the overall customer experience when buying formalwear, visiting a store, selecting fabric and getting a tailored fitting, formed an integral part of the process before the pandemic. However, with stores experiencing temporary closures and purchasing shifting online, formalwear retailers have had to find new ways to interact with consumers and still meet the high standards for a perfect fit with formal styles.
Roy concludes: “Online penetration will remain significantly higher post-pandemic as consumers have become more accustomed to this shopping channel due to the convenience it provides. As a result, brands must invest in their digital propositions, incorporating aspects such as digital tailoring services and engaging with customers through video calls to virtually view their existing formalwear wardrobes and recommend new styles that could fill in the gaps.
“Subscription services in formalwear launched by retailers like Charles Tyrwhitt and Hawkins & Shepherd are also an efficient way of locking-in spend and increasing customer retention. APAC retailers can incorporate similar strategies as these services help create brand loyalty, alongside providing ease of shopping, which is particularly important to the male shoppers, who are keen to experiment but are less willing to spend time browsing different styles in the stores.”