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With coronavirus cases surging in most of Europe, extended lockdowns show no immediate sign of easing, while in the US ongoing political and social unrest is set against a backdrop of widespread Covid-19 infections. For fashion, the repercussions will be felt for years to come, but the extent of the impact will largely depend on the handling of such crises over the course of the next year.
In the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, BoF editor-in-chief Imran Amed and Achim Berg, global leader of McKinsey’s apparel, fashion and luxury group, discuss the key trends laid out in BoF and McKinsey’s joint annual report, The State of Fashion 2021, in light of recent developments.
While experts had warned that the winter months would be challenging, super-spreading virus mutations in Brazil, South Africa and the UK have further complicated matters. “It’s fair to say that we expected lockdowns, we expected restrictions, but we didn’t expect them that early, and we didn’t expect them to take that long,” said Berg, adding that these developments might indicate a slower-than-anticipated recovery for fashion.
The closing of physical retail and low consumer confidence has hit retailers both with and without e-commerce hard. “Even if online is growing at 50 percent, you cannot compensate for physical retail,” said Berg. But it’s not all bad news. “The moment things normalise, I think people want to have the shopping experience again,” he added.
Stores reliant on tourists for a large portion of their sales are reeling from losses as flights stay grounded, but there is also cause for optimism. “It’s a whole new game, but it’s also an opportunity” said Berg. “I would argue that because in some locations it was easy to serve international customers, they didn’t put [enough] emphasis on serving local consumers.”