How the pandemic changed the Swedish fashion industry

The pandemic has changed the Swedish fashion industry

Illustration of market transformation and retail trends. Loan: International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research (2022). DOI: 10.1080/09593969.2022.2158119

The COVID-19 pandemic has had clear consequences for the Swedish fashion industry. Digitization has accelerated and efforts to attract customers to brick-and-mortar stores have stagnated. According to scientist Gabriella Wulff, a development that will continue.

New research from the interdisciplinary Gothenburg Research Institute at the University of Gothenburg shows that the COVID-19 outbreak has affected the way we shop for clothing.

The study, based on field research in the form of interviews and observations, reveals that the fashion industry has changed in various ways since the pandemic broke out in Sweden in early 2020.

“The pandemic has radically shaken the industry and existing ways of working are no longer viable. It not only had an impact on the market, but also moved backwards in the production chain as it was difficult to plan what to produce and when,” says consumer researcher Gabriella Wulff.

“Sales figures plummeted”

The study shows that the change in the clothing industry during the pandemic took place in two stages. First there was the shock that hit society at the beginning of the pandemic, when people became more careful about moving around in public places.

The second stage came as the public responded to the pandemic with various measures aimed at limiting the spread of infection. The Public Health Agency, together with the government, issued recommendations and restrictions on working from home, avoiding crowds, and identified shopping centers as areas to avoid. Then the fashion industry suffered the most.

“It was a period of great failure and sales dropped sharply,” says Gabriella Wulff.

Digitization has accelerated

Even before the pandemic, digitization was visible in the fashion industry. However, as the disease spread and government restrictions hindered free movement, the trend accelerated.

On the one hand, e-commerce in clothing and footwear has increased, on the other hand, the fashion industry is increasingly focused on reaching customers online in various ways.

The emphasis has also shifted from creating good-looking websites to more functional ones to allow products to be delivered in this way rather than through a physical store.

“One of the phenomena that has intensified during this period has been Live Video Shopping, where companies broadcast online, on social media and on their websites. This allowed companies to continue working on building customer relationships at a time when touchpoints were otherwise hard to find,” says Gabriella Wulff.

The pandemic has also stagnated fashion companies’ efforts to create unique in-store experiences. The physical store was previously seen as a key element of customer bonding, and businesses have tried to attract customers to the store in a variety of ways, including through events, pop-up stores, customer nights and sales, but the pandemic has meant businesses have been forced to find other ways to reach customers.

“Those still trying to attract people to the store were met with a lot of skepticism on social media, where these companies were asked in the comment boxes about their willingness to contribute to the spread of the disease in society,” says Gabriella Wulff.

Social sustainability

The pandemic has also redefined the concept of sustainability in the clothing industry. Social sustainability in the apparel industry used to be mainly about production and the working conditions of those working in the supply chain, but since the pandemic, the concept has expanded to include customers and staff.

“Suddenly, there is a new focus on safety in the stores, both for employees, but probably primarily for the customer. The consequences of the changes that have taken place during the pandemic will be felt for a long time,” says Gabriella Wulff.

He sees signs that e-commerce will remain strong, even as some sales have returned to brick-and-mortar stores.

“It has also become clear to many retailers how sensitive commerce is and what our current society demands of flexibility and adaptability. These are lessons that can also help you face other challenges in the future.”

More information:
Gabriella Wulff, Changes in market organization under the influence of exogenous shocks – a case of transformation of the Swedish fashion industry caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research (2022). DOI: 10.1080/09593969.2022.2158119

Provided by the Swedish Research Council

Quote: How the pandemic changed the Swedish fashion industry (2023, March 9) retrieved March 9, 2023 from

This document is subject to copyright. Except in all fair dealings for private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. This content is for informational purposes only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *