Written by Izzy Hebb

The UK fashion retail industry suffers disproportionately from retail’s Covid slump. ONS (Office for National Statistics) reports a total fall in retail sales of 1.9%, the biggest fall in the past 25 years. The worst hit sector was the clothing and footwear industry with a 15.6% decline in sales, according to Statista.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson stated that “town and city centres [are] looking to be particularly hard hit”.  

Spelling out disaster for an already declining high street, the future is looking unpredictable. Many high street staples such as Arcadia brands and Debenhams have fallen into administration. 

The UK has faced severe restrictions disallowing clothing retailers to open throughout the three national lockdowns. The loss in footfall translated to loss of sales for the high street. 

Brands without a firm online presence pre-Covid found themselves struggling in this new environment. Online sales dominated 2020, benefitting online giants Boohoo and ASOS greatly. 

In the November lockdown there was up to 80% more online sales compared with January the same year. 

What does this mean for 2021? 

The seismic shift in consumer behaviour to online shopping bolsters the online focused brands. Online brands do not have to worry about the upkeep and associated overheads of traditional brick and mortar stores.  

The success of these brands is reflected in bids from Boohoo to buy Debenhams along with ASOS bidding to take over Topshop.

The third national lockdown is not set to end until the 31st of March. However, the government has declined to say whether this will happen.  

Health secretary Matt Hancock told the press that restrictions lifting are a “long, long way” away. 

This will undoubtably hurt brands with physical locations even more. Property rent is still expected and a net zero footfall in the coming months spells out a challenging 2021.  

High street brands will need to brace for the continuing Covid slump.