Retailers report that consumers start to spend more on handbags, heels, and makeup as they see the value in them.

2020 was transformed by the pandemic. Fashion lost its way as lockdowns made it difficult to get out of your pajamas. High heels, lipstick, handbags, and nailpolish sales are back on the rise as friends’ patios, pub gardens, and the promise of greater freedoms in the future make it worth spending.

According to beauty retailers, cosmetics are selling again after a slow year.

Sarah Miles, chief executive at Feelunique, stated that people are now enjoying spending more money on themselves. Since the relaxed rules regarding socializing were implemented, the demand for self-tanners and mascaras has increased by more than 50%. She said, “This is a clear indication that people are purchasing things to go out with people.”

women's assorted cosmetics

Data from Lloyds Bank Group customers shows that wardrobe upgrades are a popular way to spend. It is evident by the fact that clothing spending was 26% more than it was in 2019.

Paul Martin, KPMG UK’s head of retail, stated that the PS140bn savings wart amassed by household during the lockdown was good news to fashion and beauty retailers, as consumers “shift into spend mode”. He said that shoppers are ready to “break away from home” and go back to the shops.

The spending spree was also evident in the far better-than expected official retail sales figures for March that were published Friday. These figures showed that there was a resurgent demand in clothing, even though most non-essential outlets were closed. Sales were more than 17% above February.

Marks & Spencer Spencer, Britain’s largest clothing retailer, revealed that almost two-thirds (63%) of its customers wanted to be dressed up in more fashionable clothes. According to retailers, online searches for dresses rise every time the prime minister announces an end to the lockdown. They claim that shoppers are eager to get rid of leggings and joggers, and they are looking for bright, cheery colours to look forward to better times.

M&S sales of high-heeled sandals for summer were 76% higher during the week that lockdown in England and Wales was lifted. Sales of denim jackets rose nearly 90%.

John Lewis also reported that demand for makeup has risen by 75% in the past two weeks, with eyeshadow, mascara, and lipstick sales up 75% over last year. L’Oreal, the largest cosmetics company in the world, predicted that the pandemic would be over by the “roaring 20s”. Lipstick is a symbol of life’s return to normalcy.

John Lewis said that handbags of all shapes and sizes were on the rise, as well as prices across all price points with designer brands like Mulberry (whose bags start at about PS500) and are in high demand by women who want to treat themselves.

Kurt Geiger, a footwear chain, stated that high-heeled shoes sales have increased by 25% in the past two months. North-west England saw the greatest demand for heels, with sales increasing by more than half. However, not everyone wants to compromise style for comfort. Flip flops, sandals, and trainers are also on the rise.

Nick Jones, chief executive at fashion brand Joules said that there had been a rise in demand for dresses, accessories, as well as shorts for men and chinos for women. Sweatshirts, hoodies, and gilets sales were strong, however, “because people are meeting up outside they have to do so outside.”

Primark’s stores in England and Wales were closed for business, but it has seen record sales since reopening. Women’s fashion including heels, handbags, and gingham dresses have been among the top sellers, despite losing billions of pounds in business. According to Primark, customers are more confident in returning to the high streets this time around than they were on pre-Covid shopping trips.

The chief executive of a major clothing company, who refused to be identified, stated that “people are tired of sitting in their joggers 24/7 in their bedrooms.” People want to get out and dress up.

Springboard’s latest data shows that footfall in the first week of April saw a dramatic increase, with 12% more shoppers than the previous week. However, they are still 25% lower than the numbers seen in 2019, prior to the pandemic.

Springboard’s marketing director and insights director Diane Wehrle believes that shopping is on the rise. She said that people are returning to retail. “Footfall has decreased this week, but I believe that it is partly due to children returning to school. Indoor hospitality is still to open, and that will help high streets especially.”

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