The Death of Apparel is Upon Us

Michael K. Spencer
Feb 11, 2018 · 4 min read

Retail sales are changing as consumer preferences shift us away from consumption of the old world. Some blame tech, but it goes much deeper than this. The way we dress at work has changed as well.

In 1977, clothing accounted for 6.2% of U.S. household purchases. By 2016, it was 3.1%. What gives? In recent years, tech gadgets have captured Americans’ imaginations, along with their wallets. And a growing share of employers don’t require workers to get gussied up any more, reducing the need for multiple wardrobes. (LinkedIn, Feb 2018).

By the mid 2020s, in the U.S. E-commerce will comprise about 20% of all retail sales. That’s a doubling of today’s standards. The lion’s share of E-commerce apparel sales will be done via Amazon, Walmart and others big-name brands.

At the start of 2017, retail stores for apparel were also bloated. For example, There were roughly 48 retail square feet per person in the U.S., according to Blackledge, versus 22 square feet per person in the U.K. and 13 in Canada. This means those brands going bankrupt by shutting down stores, is not just a symptom of Americans spending less on apparel and more on other things, but a real showing of how bloated and irrelevant apparel stores had become.

As consumer spent less time “at the mall”, what we are in the midst is actually the death of clothing and apparel as we know it.

The large department stores our grandparents and parents, the Sears and Macy’s of the world are dying.

Amazon’s fashion brands are gaining momentum and their private label onslaught is in the midst of taking over less agile apparel brands that are literally going under at the pace of dozens each year.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

If you need socks or underwear where are you likely to be increasingly turning to, yep Amazon. Oddly in 2016, Men’s and women’s underwear and intimate apparel accounted for two out of five of Amazon’s top-selling apparel categories last year, for a total of $415 million in sales. Who knew!

The death of retail and the retail apocalypse are highly exaggerated headlines, but the demise of apparel as we knew her isn’t. No, the death of clothing is as real as day in 2018. It turns out in an age of mobile addiction, what you wear might be meaning less to Millennials, than past generations.

Apparel has simply lost its appeal. We as consumers, really just don’t care. We are spending more on food on demand. Millennials are spending an absurd amount on Uber and Lyft, if you can believe it. Coffee and the latest tech gadgets also are way up. We’ve become an on-demand gen of consumers who have new priorities.

With discount shopping, thrift stores and other priorities, we’re turning our backs on fast fashion. Apparel, it may never be the same again. Americans are spending less and less on clothing and there’s no reversing this trend in sight. Screw the closet, we need a life!

Millennials are embracing clothes sharing and even trying out subscription models of the future of how we do wardrobe, from Rent the Runway to Le Tote. With services like Prime Wardrobe, you have new incentives to try clothes on at home.

The experience economy is real, and it’s eating apparel alive. You know, that supposed sense of adventure Millennials have — like travel, eating out and living-to-the-full activities. It’s turning out wealthy baby boomers also prefer actually living to getting dressed up. This is hitting footwear and the clothing industry in a big way.

Millennials expect being able to do casual wear at work now. We’re trading in suits for vacations, and taking eating out to the next level — eating on demand. Apparel? Just fsck it.

H&M, Forever 21 and Zara killed it in the rise of Fast Fashion. But those stores are starting to bore us as we head online more. Apparel store closings meanwhile had dismal years in 2015 and 2017. It’s not the end of Retail, but we have to admit the death of apparel seems to be upon us.

Michael K. Spencer

Written by

Blockchain Mark Consultant, tech Futurist, prolific writer. LinkedIn: michaelkspencer