Changing consumer habits
by Kate Johnstone, Campaign & Communications Manager, Cotton Traders. Karen Tucker, Marketing Director, Madeleine

Kate and Karen discuss how consumer habits have changed over the last year – from how we shop to the clothes we want to wear.

17th October 2021 Read time: 54 minutes
The last two years have brought a bucketload of complications for retail businesses – borders shutting, surplus stock, and new hygiene regulations. Now walk in a fashion brand’s shoes. How did the industry, known for being a season ahead of what consumers want, fare with the plethora of disruptions the world served up?
Kate Johnstone, Campaign and Communications Manager at Cotton Traders, and Karen Tucker, the Marketing Director at Madeleine, joined the What’s Possible Community sessions to discuss how their brands adapted to this world of change while keeping ahead of the latest trends. 

Finding the right fit online

Cotton Traders is a British clothing company founded in 1987. What began as a rugby jersey brand has become a fully-fledged fashion retailer with a majority female customer base. Their first national TV ad campaign went live, and then two days later, the first coronavirus lockdowns were announced.  
While consumers could see the ad on TV at home (heightening brand awareness), Cotton Traders’ challenge was that they had over 100 retail stores they had to close. Customers subsequently had no choice but to change their buying habits and seek out the online shop.  
Madeleine is a fashion company founded in 1978 that creates sophisticated, luxury, premium, and business-wear clothing for women.  
They are headquartered in Germany and have been active in the United Kingdom for the last 13 years. They also operate in six other territories across Europe.  
Luckily for them, they were already an online retailer. However, Karen says, many traditional customers would still make orders through catalogues and order via the telephone – and even pay by cheque.  
Once lockdown begun in the UK, online orders shot from 47% of total sales to 63% overnight.  
For Cotton Traders’ consumers, ordering online was new. Out of the three customer profiles they surveyed pre-pandemic, 10-15% said they would not shop online.  
We had just done customer profiles, and the behaviours switched in six months. Something that you would see in a three to four-year customer profile change was happening in three to four months. It was significant,” Kate said.  
Kate notes that retail customers switching to online is a trend they expect to continue.

Comfort is KING

Not only did shopping habits change during the pandemic, but fashion habits too. Madeleine and Cotton Traders had to react quickly.  
Consumers across the board were looking for items that had longevity, were versatile, adaptable, and even reversible. Most importantly, they were seeking comfortable clothing.  
Madeleine quickly began redesigning some of their clothes into ‘hybrid workwear’ that would suit the new work-from-home lifestyle. Any surplus stock of items Madeleine couldn’t convert to hybrid workwear, they discounted heavily.  
Cotton Traders say they weathered the storm of disruptions well. Even pre-pandemic, they were marketing their clothes as dynamic and comfortable. However, they learned some lessons on what stock they should introduce to their customers. For the first time, they began listing jumpsuits in their offerings. 
It seems the trend of customers purchasing for comfort is firmly entrenched. Even with restrictions easing, shopping for comfort is here to stay.  
Through lockdown, comfort was king, and it still is king. And it will be – is our prediction for 2022 as well,” Karen said.