Retailers Revisit Work-at-Home Apparel as COVID-19 Cases Rise

Target and Macy’s Overhaul Their Styles

Target (TGT), Macy’s (M), and White House Black Market (CHS) are among the retailers that are restocking work-at-home attire to keep apparel sales growing as the number of COVID-19 cases rises. With the Delta variant beginning to chip away at consumer confidence and companies pushing back their return-to-the-office dates, major companies want to keep their choices compatible with the volatile environment. As a result, they are focusing on clothes that look good behind a screen and statement pieces when consumers do venture out.

Take Target for example. The retailer is shifting its apparel inventory to focus on hybrid work and school settings. Macy’s is also seeing demand from consumers for clothes that look good on virtual conference calls.

Pandemic Changes Dress Code

Despite people returning to offices, the pandemic has permanently changed the dress code for America’s office workers. A recent survey of US consumers found 35% now have a casual work dress code, which is up seven percentage points from prior to the pandemic. The retailers expect wardrobes to continue to evolve as hybrid work models become permanent.

Even children returning to school are adopting a more casual style that can easily work in-school or in virtual environments. That is driving sales of graphic t-shirts and comfy jeans. For the adults it’s all about office-casual, including blouses and comfortable dress shoes that can be worn to work and to run errands.

Retailers Want to Keep Party Going

The retailers’ shift to embrace clothes that work in both settings comes as they seek to protect the gains made since the pandemic’s ebb a few months ago. Pent-up demand earlier this summer led to a surge in spending on everything from apparel to electronics. Even in light of the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, the back-to-school selling period has been a strong one.

That said, there are signs emerging consumer confidence may be waning. Retail sales in July fell 1.1%, which was more than economists were expecting. While automobiles drove a lot of the decline, sales of clothing did fall 2.6% in July. With cases of COVID-19 rising, the nation’s retailers are making sure they are well suited to keep Americans in style whether they are behind a screen or in-person.

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ABOUT Meg Richardson Meg Richardson is a writer specializing in markets, technology, and personal finance. She loves breaking down seemingly complex ideas and making them readable and interesting for everyone. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia University. When she is not writing about finance, she enjoys running in Central Park and drawing cartoons.

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