By Tonya Garcia, MarketWatch
Up to 10% of demand could be permanently lost after the pandemic, Wells Fargo found
Apparel prices plunged nearly 12% in April, the largest April price drop in five years, driving discounts to levels usually seen around the holidays, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
The average month-over-month price drop between March and April is 2.9%. This year, with the coronavirus pandemic having a major impact on retail and clothing sales, that price drop was four times greater.
Online clothing sales have jumped 34%, though the prices are much lower.
"Apparel is experiencing discounting in April that is akin to the scale of discounting that certain categories experience during the Black Friday through Cyber Monday holiday sales period," said John Copeland, vice president of marketing and customer insights at Adobe (ADBE) , in the report.
Copeland said there are usually discounts between May and June as clearance sales spread. However, COVID-19 has upended norms, and may be shifting some shopping behaviors long-term or permanently.
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The holiday season similarities have spread to other areas as well. FedEx Corp. (FDX) , for instance, has put limits in place on the number of items that retailers like Kohl's Corp. (KSS) , Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) and Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) can ship from some locations, according to The Wall Street Journal ( ). With stores shuttered, online shopping has increased dramatically, and retailers have used stores to help meet demand.
"We've found that this sudden e-commerce acceleration is having an impact on apparel, electronics, and grocery purchases online," Copeland said. "With stores closed due to shelter-in-place mandates across the country, April's Digital Economy Index highlights some of the ways in which brands in these categories have had to shift strategies during this unprecedented time and how consumer online shopping is evolving."
Data from M Science, an alternative data-based investment research provider, shows that even with the price drops, softline spending, which includes clothing, was halved year-over-year for nearly the entire month of April.
Shopping at off-price and department stores was also down dramatically.
"We have heard from enough companies to support our view that April will be the trough month for sales," wrote Instinet analysts led by Michael Baker. "The big driver to the recovery will be the reopening of stores in May, even if it is a slow reopening."
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Coach parent Tapestry Inc. (TPR) is among the latest to announce store reopening procedures ( ).
Still, even with stores back in operation, Instinet analysts don't think retail will bounce back immediately.
"If April is the trough, that means that fiscal 1Q, which for most retailers include the months of February through April, will be the worst quarter of the year and 2Q will be better, albeit still negative," analysts said.
Changing shopping behaviors
Though prices have dropped, e-commerce has soared, with the Amplify Online Retail ETF (IBUY) climbing nearly 23% over the past month and rallying 20.1% for the year-to-date. The S&P 500 index is down 8.6% for 2020 so far and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 13.8%.
"Three of online retail's key benefits -- convenience, selection and competitive pricing -- have been ideal value propositions during the days of COVID," said Christian Magoon, chief executive of Amplify ETFs and portfolio manager of the Amplify Online Retail ETF.
"[A]lthough online retail wasn't the perfect selection solution, it provided many shoppers with a much better alternative than their neighborhood stores at the recent peak of this crisis. [And] due to the financial pressure caused by the joblessness of many Americans, online retail's ability to offer competitive pricing and immediate price comparisons gives shoppers confidence they are spending wisely."
A survey conducted by Wells Fargo finds that 70% of consumers won't return to stores for quite some time, and e-commerce penetration could climb to 30% from 25% pre-COVID-19, a 400-to-500 basis point increase. Historically, analysts said, annual e-commerce growth hasn't exceeded 250 basis points.
Three-quarters of consumers (75%) will spend less than they did before the pandemic when they do go back to stores. Up to 10% of demand could be lost for good.
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"Based on our results, it could take nine-plus months for sales to reach the 'new normal' (consumers are not likely to be anywhere near historical shopping patterns until holiday, at best)," analysts led by Ike Boruchow wrote.
On the bright side, analysts say there is pent-up demand for beauty merchandise and non-athletic apparel.
"[E]ven if the end result isn't as negative as these results would suggest, we do think it's possible that the crisis has impaired consumer demand for apparel/footwear, and post-COVID per-capita spend will be somewhat lower than pre-COVID spending levels," Wells Fargo said.
-Tonya Garcia; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 19, 2020 08:27 ET (12:27 GMT)
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