By Tonya Garcia, MarketWatch
Apparel prices plunged nearly 12% in April, the largest April price drop in five years, driving discounts to levels usually seen around the holidays, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
The average month-over-month price drop between March and April is 2.9%. This year, with the coronavirus pandemic having a major impact on retail and clothing sales, that price drop was four times greater.
Online clothing sales have jumped 34%, though the prices are much lower.
“Apparel is experiencing discounting in April that is akin to the scale of discounting that certain categories experience during the Black Friday through Cyber Monday holiday sales period,” said John Copeland, vice president of marketing and customer insights at Adobe /zigman2/quotes/200389143/composite ADBE -2.09% , in the report.
Copeland said there are usually discounts between May and June as clearance sales spread. However, COVID-19 has upended norms, and may be shifting some shopping behaviors long-term or permanently.
The holiday season similarities have spread to other areas as well. FedEx Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203047719/composite FDX -2.12% , for instance, has put limits in place on the number of items that retailers like Kohl’s Corp. /zigman2/quotes/210414114/composite KSS +1.27% , Abercrombie & Fitch Co. /zigman2/quotes/206677024/composite ANF +3.62% and Nordstrom Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203902116/composite JWN -0.53% can ship from some locations, according to The Wall Street Journal . With stores shuttered, online shopping has increased dramatically, and retailers have used stores to help meet demand.
“We’ve found that this sudden e-commerce acceleration is having an impact on apparel, electronics, and grocery purchases online,” Copeland said. “With stores closed due to shelter-in-place mandates across the country, April’s Digital Economy Index highlights some of the ways in which brands in these categories have had to shift strategies during this unprecedented time and how consumer online shopping is evolving.”
Data from M Science, an alternative data-based investment research provider, shows that even with the price drops, softline spending, which includes clothing, was halved year-over-year for nearly the entire month of April.
Shopping at off-price and department stores was also down dramatically.
“We have heard from enough companies to support our view that April will be the trough month for sales,” wrote Instinet analysts led by Michael Baker. “The big driver to the recovery will be the reopening of stores in May, even if it is a slow reopening.”
Still, even with stores back in operation, Instinet analysts don’t think retail will bounce back immediately.
“If April is the trough, that means that fiscal 1Q, which for most retailers include the months of February through April, will be the worst quarter of the year and 2Q will be better, albeit still negative,” analysts said.