The Covid-19 crisis is now being felt sharply across the globe. Worldwide, countries are locking down to slow the spread and save lives – shops are being forcibly shut, people are staying at home, consumers are losing their jobs and manufacturing output is significantly reduced. While the loss of life is the biggest tragedy of this pandemic, the impacts on industry will be devastating and long-lasting, prompting businesses and manufacturers to review ways of working and retailing.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the ways the coronavirus pandemic is likely to continue to impact and shape the future of fashion production, both immediately and beyond.
Covid-19 has caused an immediate financial hit
The coronavirus pandemic has obvious, immediate economic impacts. In Britain alone, It’s estimated that consumers will spend 20% less on clothes and shoes – or £11.1bn – in 2020. Fashion suddenly isn’t so important – with many fashion brands shifting their production efforts to life-saving face masks. The immediate financial hit of this for everyone involved in the fashion industry is obvious, but there will be lasting repercussions across the entire supply chain.
Fashion production has been hugely impacted
Nothing highlights just how interconnected the fashion industry is, as well as the huge reliance on China than the impact of the coronavirus on global fashion supply and production. At the beginning of 2020, as the virus immobilized Chinese factories during their essential lockdown, workers stayed home and production halted. Many fashion brands with factories in China now face huge disruption to their supply chains. This is likely to cause reduced stock availability across the globe– and corresponding price hikes in the autumn, even if countries start relaxing forced shutdowns allowing consumers to start buying again.
Even if brands don’t manufacture in China, large amounts of raw materials are sourced from there – further impacting future supply.
What does this mean for the future of global supply chains?
The huge impact of Covid-19 has forced brands to realise just how precarious it can be to shift production and rely on sourcing materials and manufacturing at a single source. This may cause manufacturers and fashion brands to rethink their supply chains in the future, encouraging greater transparency and closed-loop production in brands seeking to find new, more effective (and potentially more sustainable) ways of working. China’s shut-down has highlighted the importance of supply chain diversification, potentially driving a future shift for increased flexibility. Many fashion brands, eager to address global delays in production are looking into manufacturing options closer to home, possibly opening the door to shifting supply chain options in the future.
Will reduced consumer spending last past the pandemic?
As well as immediate financial and production implications, no one can predict the impact of this on the fashion industry long term. It raises interesting questions that consumers, fashion brands and manufacturers will have to address. For example:
- Will consumers now realise that cheap, throwaway fashion isn’t inevitable? It’s an interesting idea, and one that fashion brands will have to react to.
- Certainly short-term at least, fashion prices are likely to rise to try and mitigate losses and delays during the pandemic. How will this drive consumer demand?
- Will consumers be more willing to buy less, buy better, and support more sustainable fashion options?
Online collaboration will become even more important
Covid-19 will not disappear soon. Manufacturers and fashion brands will have to learn to live with the virus, including what that means in terms of travel restrictions and being able to carry on business and production. This will make online tools for effective supply chain management in fashion production absolutely essential. As working from home becomes the new norm, then the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively electronically is going to be even more important – ensuring consistent supply chain compliance.
We’re all living in uncertain, worrying times. The focus on health is paramount, necessitating essential shutdowns without a clear end. These have immediate – and obvious – impacts on production output. But the coronavirus crisis is also likely to have far-reaching impacts on the future of the fashion industry – leading to an inevitable change in consumer demand, purchasing behaviour and potential future global supply chain shifts and reviews. While no one is certain on the future business impacts of Covid-19, fashion consumers and manufacturers will need to accept, and adapt to these challenges.
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