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Apparel
Quarterly Index
2021: Q1

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The apparel sector is showing signs of life and while year-over-year growth in Q1 speaks more to the depths of March 2020 than the heights of the last quarter, there are reasons for optimism. Several key metrics indicate the return of normal shopping behaviors that are particularly helpful for apparel retailers, and certain sub-sectors seem positioned for exceptionally strong periods to come.

Analyzing dozens of brands including:

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Visits Show Signs of Life

Although year-over-year visits grew in Q1, this was more about the low points in 2020. The decline from Q4 to Q1 is equally misleading in that it speaks to the sector’s normal seasonal peak. The coming months will be critical in their ability to show a rebound as normal routines return. QoQ numbers were also depressed by severe weather throughout the country, exacerbating an already challenging situation.

“The coming months will be critical in their ability to show a rebound as normal routines return.”

-22%
After two quarters of QoQ growth, visits dropped 22% from the holiday months

Weekends on the Rise

Normal shopping patterns and behaviors are essential to the apparel sector as so many brands depend on visitors taking longer trips to malls and outlets. The rise in the proportion of visitors coming to apparel locations on weekends is a huge indicator of the return of these patterns. Apparel brands could rebound faster than many expect should the trend continue.

“Apparel brands could rebound faster than many expect should the trend continue.”

10%
The percentage of weekend visits rose by 10% QoQ

Sub-Sector Differences

Well positioned brands like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Old Navy saw strong year over year visit growth in Q1. Yet, this data is slightly misleading as it includes comparisons to March 2020 which did already feature major store closures because of the pandemic. However, the strength is still promising and shows the potential of the sector to return to its pre-COVID status.

“The strength is still promising and shows the potential of the sector to return to its pre-COVID status. ”

+22%
Visits for T.J. Maxx were up 22% YoY in Q1

Visit Magnitude Declining

Declining visit duration is a likely consequence of the return to normalcy and will be a key element of retail in the coming months. But while visit duration is expected to decline, the rise in visits should help compensate for those losses.

“Declining visit duration is a likely consequence of the return to normalcy and will be a key element of retail in the coming months.”

0%
Median Visit Duration was flat year over year for Burlington even as most brands saw declines

Summary

The apparel sector has seen a steady recovery with different sectors behaving very differently. While off-price leaders have leveraged their position to drive success, department store players have continued to struggle in the current environment. The continued recovery will be a necessity for these brands if they are to mark clear turnarounds in 2021.

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