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What does the future hold for businesses after the coronavirus pandemic?

Without doubt the coronavirus pandemic has had an extraordinary impact on so many businesses, especially those in the fashion industry.

One result is that fashion has had to reinvent itself for a population that is no longer putting on its smart tailoring to go to work, or dressing up for a night on the town.

While actual stores were filled with unwanted tailoring and sequinned maxis designed for a ‘life before’, many brands rushed to provide us with a wardrobe more befitting the lifestyle we found ourselves in, leaping from bed into homeschooling, or home office.

Suddenly, there was an awful lot of loungewear out there and a lot less clothing aimed at a specific occasion, with most of it being sold online.

The truth is 2020 marked the year we were no longer buying from stores.

Even when we weren’t in full lockdown and the shops were open you couldn’t try things on, so what was the point? You might as well buy online.

So that is where we are now.

Figures for January revealed that revenues for UK fashion retailers soared thanks to a surge in online spending which increased fivefold compared to the same time last year.

Overall, online retail orders in January were up 15 per cent in 2021 compared to the same period last year.

It seems we still have an appetite for buying fashion, but instead of hitting the stores we are satisfying our retail needs through a screen.

Research by O2 Business and Retail Economics revealed that 44 per cent think they will see permanent changes to the way they shop, with many saying they expect to shop online more regularly.

This cuts across all demographics, from those who have grown up being computer savvy, to others who might have previously distrusted online shopping but who are now ordering their designer coats along with their Ocado grocery delivery.

Post pandemic, it is almost certain that home working will become the norm for many and so people will no longer dress for work and shop in stores during their lunch break.

Another byproduct of the pandemic is that we have been able to think about how we consume fashion and are aiming to buy better, more mindfully and sustainably.

Shopping in the real world will still be a pleasurable activity for many people but the chances are it will become part of a whole leisure ‘experience’ which includes shopping, dinning, getting a beauty treatment, or visiting the theatre.

We may also desire more ‘event shopping’ such as the limited-edition designer collaborations with high street brands that cause queues around the block and there will definitely be a demand for brilliant service.

But for anyone whose heart sinks at the prospect of trawling around the shops on a wet day searching for a pair of boring black trousers will be totally on board with the convenience of internet shopping.

Once the pandemic is over, businesses operating according to the old model will be required to think outside the box.

They need to discover ways in which to entice shoppers back onto the high street by supporting emerging designers, opening smaller more unique boutiques and creating ‘experiences’ that cannot be matched online.