The Retail Apocalypse may be an exaggerated and overused narrative, but few industries have felt the wrath to the same extent as apparel. For all of the challenges built into online apparel retail - from inability to check fit and feel to returns - there has been an ongoing focus on the struggles of the top brands offline. With companies like Dress Barn closing down completely and others struggling to remain afloat, some of the negative attention has been warranted.
Yet, there are signs that a surge could be on the way. Brands like Lululemon are pushing forward with impressive growth and innovative approaches to the in-store experience. And our analysis of Memorial Day Weekend 2019 showed some of the top apparel companies seeing significant visit bumps.
So did Q2 show an improvement? We analyzed ten of the top apparel retailers in the US to see how their in-store performance stacked up.
Strong Growth Compared to Q1
With the thawing of the cold seemed an apparent rise in apparel interest with all of the measured brands seeing a significant uptick in visits apart from Sears. While the latter’s decline was largely due to a wide range of closed stores, it still serves in stark contrast to the growth elsewhere. Old Navy led the way with 46.3% growth on Q1 visits, while Ross and Kohls both enjoyed visit increases that jumped over 30%.
Visit Duration a Strength
Unsurprisingly, these retailers saw strength in the visit duration metric with even the lowest of the group - again Sears - seeing a 43-minute visit duration. This speaks to the relative strength of the group to bring visits that offer the high potential of conversions. It also offers a glimpse into potential areas of innovation and improvement. Because these brands succeeded in increasing foot traffic and extending the visits, there are ample opportunities to creatively engage audiences to drive sales and support new revenue streams.
While the other sectors analyzed for the Q2 Retail Index series saw a few dominant players at the top, the apparel analysis revealed close competition. Five of the ten companies analyzed saw over 10% share of the combined traffic with one - JCPenney - coming in just below at 9.7%.
And this further emphasizes the aforementioned point - innovation is key. With a tight group of retailers all competing over the same market and each managing to secure a fairly large portion, there is an opportunity for one or more to stand out from the crowd. Whether it be implementing experiential retail components into the store experience or focusing on tactics that drive a more harmonious mix between online and offline - the potential for a standout to emerge is there.
While retail may be going through a period of reinvention, that same force offers some powerful opportunities for offline apparel players. From new concepts in stores, to better leveraging the calendar, there are a host of ways to drive improved performance. Q2 saw a strong rise in visits, and if the momentum continues, it could be an indication of an apparel revival.