Home Blog 2021 2021 Outlook for the Apparel Industry
Jan 11, 2021

Finding Comfort in 2021

Subscribe to our blog

Today’s circumstances are leading us to seek out a sense of security that we are missing at the moment. This comfort and refuge is manifesting itself in multiple ways in our everyday lives, from the activities we partake in, to the products we choose. From an apparel perspective, this mindset is impacting how we are investing in our wardrobes today, and how we will do so moving forward.

The key to apparel’s success is versatility plus comfort, and the two do not have to be mutually exclusive. In analyzing sales trends over the last several months, it is evident that we need to investigate why comfort and active apparel is so important in today’s environment, and its potential down the road.

A New Movement

The comfort movement is being driven by four key themes: work-from-home (WFH) routines, an emphasis on stress relief, health and wellness efforts, and an overall casualization shift which has been taking shape for a number of years. Gone are the days of stiff, uncomfortable fashion; today we say hello to comfort power categories. New terms like “workleisure” are not to be confused with sleepwear or gym attire, nor is it synonymous with “traditional career wear.” Rather, it is a trend towards a lot of expandable waistbands and stretch to help us cope with our new WFH lifestyles.

Higher Wardrobe Investments*

Activewear buyers are currently spending 11% more per purchase compared to non-activewear buyers, pointing to a higher investment in wardrobes for this consumer. These buyers also spent more on both men’s and women’s activewear in 2020 compared to the prior year, while less has been spent on non-active apparel.

Ageless Trends**

The shift to comfort is growing across ages, with the biggest return on investment coming from a younger consumer. This indicates the importance of understanding what styles and features resonate most with your target consumer.

It’s Time to Innovate

Comfort and active category growth alone is not recouping the magnitude of losses coming from the other apparel categories. It is important to plan accordingly to offer the right mix of comfort and active, as well as to determine what elements of comfort can be infused across all apparel categories to grow your business.

Despite all the unknowns around us, I can say with certainty that the comfort movement will continue!  Consumers have become accustomed to casual dressing since even before the pandemic, and we have been talking a lot about athleisure’s growing popularity for quite some time. Given the culmination of all these factors, I anticipate this casualization shift to remain in place even post-pandemic. What will change is how this behavior evolves and begins to take shape on the broader apparel scale. That is why I expect a blurring of the lines for product offerings and attributes, as all eyes will be watching these comfort-driven categories to see what traits can be infused into other areas of the apparel industry.

*Source: The NPD Group/ NPD Checkout, January-September 2020
**Source: The NPD Group/ U.S. Consumer Tracking Service, January-September 2020

Stay current in your industry

Related Content

Tagged: Apparel

NPD: As Pandemic Travel Restrictions Ease, Luggage and Swimwear Show Distinct Signs of Recovery
NPD: As Pandemic Travel Restrictions Ease, Luggage and Swimwear Show Distinct Signs of Recovery

Pent-up demand leads to improvement in consumer spending on travel-related products.

Canadian Consumers Yearn for a Wardrobe Refresh Post Pandemic
Canadian Consumers Yearn for a Wardrobe Refresh Post Pandemic

More than 50% of Canadian consumers plan to purchase new clothing once pandemic restrictions are relaxed, according to a new report from The NPD Group.

The Skinny on Skinny Jeans
The Skinny on Skinny Jeans

From new work-from-home (WFH) schedules, to more casual outings, apparel categories will evolve in a post-COVID-19 world -- and so will skinny jeans.

Time to Buy: Current Wardrobes No Longer Getting Us By
Time to Buy: Current Wardrobes No Longer Getting Us By

According to NPD, two out of five adult females and three out of ten adult males no longer fit into last year’s clothing sizes; snacking and fitness play a role.


Subscribe and get key market trends and insights relevant to your industry each month.

We will not sell your information. View privacy notice. Cookie Settings