How the pandemic changed fashion


Today, consumers are slowing down and taking stock of their lives and their changing needs are reflected in their changing purchasing patterns. For the fashion industry, this means listening to what consumers want and using these insights to create retail and fashion experiences that connect with the customer and build towards the future.

KLA, a full service market research agency recently conducted a survey across more than 250 customers, to find out what influences their buying behaviour and how digitisation has shifted their shopping expectations.

This is particularly relevant in South Africa where a weakening economy and high levels of unemployment, alongside ongoing loadshedding, are impacting on retail growth and consumer delight. Retailers need to be more strategic and revise their offerings to meet key consumer needs. Online stores also have to revise and shine – they’ve historically been platforms where customers compare prices, now they have to be agile and digital, another engaging touchpoint from which to connect with the customer. 

The answer lies in creating experiences and environments that meet very clear customer needs. 

South African consumers are looking for quality and durability, but without having to pay high prices within this category
Consumers want quality but they also want more value for money which can be contradictory. The fast fashion trend dominated pre-pandemic with customers buying cheap over sustainable but now its about clothes that will last. Wearability is the defining factor for 86% of respondents which suggests that brands need to focus on clothing longevity across factors such as washability, classic styles, and smart cuts that grow with the child or the trends.

Price has little influence on the perception of quality
Only 14% of respondents said that a higher price implies that the clothing’s quality is higher. In addition, branded clothing is now also not seen as a quality metric. 

While most consumers are interested in buying local fashion, very few associate it with quality (only 7%) and few feel that the quality of South African fashion equates to that of international brands (only 8%). Local designers and fashion houses clearly need to consider upweighting their quality by providing insight into handmade or artisanal processes that often directly result in higher quality products.   

A different stance to sustainability
While the sample as a whole does not directly link quality to sustainability, 45% of women feel that quality clothing is sustainable, especially the younger age groups (18-24). This strong link between sustainability and quality can be leveraged by fashion brands.

When it comes to fashion retailers Edgars, Ackermans and Woolworths rank as the top three brands that offer the best value for money in the category. 

While limited, there are some interesting demographic elements at play when it comes to ranking brands around value for money offering. Younger age groups favour H&M’s value for money offering, whereas, older groups prefer the likes of PEP and Pick n Pay clothing. Women think that Ackermans and Pick N Pay clothing offer more value for money than men.

Moving into the future: How do we keep consumers interested, online and in-store?
Consumers are looking for opportunities to customise and personalise their purchases, be part of the brand, as well as exciting in-store experiences. This extends to the concept of co-creation as, 54% are looking to have clothing that can be completely customised to fit in their desired fabric and colour, for example. In addition, 31% want to be rewarded for creating media content using clothing, including Tik Tok videos and Instagram posts. This an interesting intersection of social media and fashion as consumers enjoy playing their part in a brand story. 

Regardless of the increase in online shopping, consumers still head to physical stores. We cannot escape the fact that fashion is an interactive and highly tactile category for consumers. But, a tech-based future is foreseen and winning brands will be those that take their clients on this journey in a meaningful way both in-store and online.

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