Audience shot #24: Autumn shopping habits shift as lockdown 2 looms

The Beyond Collective
4 min readSep 30, 2020

Not knowing what we’ll need to wear is the new black

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Late September, as any clothes lover will tell you, is the best time of the year. The first chilly days signify the start of winter coat hunting season. It’s time to plan a pleasant hour or two casting an eye over the latest boot trends and potential Christmas party looks from the catwalks — before scouring high street stores and websites for versions we can afford.

Ah, 2020. Once again, you have a different plan for us.

Usually a strong month for clothes retailers, a look at some audience trends suggests we’re behaving differently this September — even before the government advised us that we should once again work from home where possible.

It’s not that we won’t need boots, it’s more that we have no idea if we should buy a pair that is suitable for socialising in the local pub or the local park.

Last year, we were asking Google ‘what to wear’.

This year, according to Google Trends, we’re serving up a side order of related searches about personal protective equipment and where we have to wear face masks. The hardcore fashion lovers are still excited for moments like the H&M Studio drop — where the high street brand releases some more out-there clothes.

But en masse, we’re not buying in the same way. Admittedly it’s early to start looking at party dresses, but this time last year it was being searched for roughly at the same levels as ‘puffer jacket’ — now it’s way behind.

Unsurprisingly, the latest ONS retail sales figures show it’s been a tough year for clothes shops. As John Lewis said in its interim results announcement: “Home working has had a big impact on what people are buying — more TVs and tablets, fewer trousers and trainers.” Apparently there’s a large contingent of homeworkers who don’t feel the need to dress below the waist.

Small fashion retailers are closing their doors all over the country, but nature abhors a vacuum.

Now all our favourite high street clothing stores have PPE as part of their ranges, it’s time for ‘face mask… but make it fashion’.

So what are we buying? We’ve looked at trends like cycling, DIY and crafting, but another area that’s done well is home manicure supplies — not surprising, given that salons and nail bars were closed for months.

Sales of makeup and perfume were down but there’s a bright spot in this sector thanks to a relatively new trend: the beauty advent calendar. You don’t want to read about advent in early autumn? Don’t blame us, the big names have already released theirs and it looks like they’re right to do so, with searches up this September compared to last year.

Already popular for self-gifting, sales could also benefit as we feel like we deserve a treat after 2020’s vicissitudes.

Brands are more than willing to help out with increasingly luxe offerings (hello £405 for skincare brand Dr Barbara Sturm’s unfestively white and grey version). Thankfully plenty of beauty writers are helping out if you’re finding it hard to pick who gets your pounds.

Depressingly, though, the big sales trend for the close of September seems to be one we saw back in March. You’d think we would have learnt our lesson from lockdown round 1, but no, panic buying loo roll is back with us.

If you’re planning a mummy costume for your Zoom Hallowe’en party it might be time for a rethink.



The Beyond Collective

Bite-sized people observations from The Beyond Collective, the independent creative group for the Audience Age