The reign of “soft” clothing may soon be over. As jackets, dressier pants and other formal wear find buyers again, Quebec retailers expect their 2022 sales to be comparable to, and even higher than, pre-pandemic 2019.
Posted at 6:00 am
According to Statistics Canada, sales of clothing and accessories — including shoes — reached $2.9 billion in the country in April 2019, compared to $3.2 billion in the same period this year. In April 2020, at the height of the pandemic, they stood at 414 million.
With the return of weddings, evenings out at restaurants and work organization in hybrid mode, can Quebec retailers hope for better days? “2019 was a good year for us, but 2022 will be even better,” says Jessika Roussy, co-owner of Mode Choc, a company with 10 stores in Quebec. It expects its sales to grow about 15% to 20% this year compared to 2019, the year before the pandemic. If Mme Roussy realizes that the price of clothes has increased, she still expects to sell more volume. On the part of Maison Simons, owner of 16 stores including 10 in Belle province, President and CEO Bernard Leblanc expects an increase of around 5 to 7%. “Our year 2022 is developing much better [que 2019]. »
During the pandemic, retailers reported selling more tops (blouses, sweaters) than bottoms, in part due to the many virtual meetings where attendees’ legs were not visible. However, according to Franco Rocchi, marketing director of the Suzy/Le Château group, this trend is tending to fade. “There are new trends in stockings. The style has changed. We have looser pants. It creates an incentive to refresh the wardrobe. »
And this “return to coquetry” affects sales. “There is really a return to solid clothing, observes Jessika Roussy. In 2020-2021, we stopped selling pants. And that’s when we hit record sales of pajamas and tracksuits. During the pandemic, people have indulged in comfort but not looks. »
Inflation also benefits his company. “We sell clothes for the whole family at affordable prices. As we are accessible, perhaps with the pandemic and inflation, families have chosen to adopt us if they have previously gone to more expensive stores. We believe that we have gained a new group of customers. »
A great surprise
As for Simons, even if Mr. Leblanc was anticipating a “return to stores” in the spring, he didn’t anticipate such enthusiasm. “We are always surprised by our fine industry,” he says with a laugh. This one is a positive surprise. »
Just like mme Roussy, the big boss at Simons, is also noting a return of consumers to certain departments that have been neglected during the pandemic, such as workwear and formalwear.
“I think people haven’t updated their wardrobe for two years. Today they are faced with a wardrobe that needs updating,” he explains.
“Everyone has completely retired for two years, today people are getting back on track, getting back to their normal activities and wanting to have fun. I think it’s a combination of factors,” adds the one who just returned from Halifax to announce the opening of a 17the Loading, in 2024.
“April wasn’t that bad”
Total April retail sales rose 0.9% to $60.7 billion, according to Statistics Canada data released on Tuesday. “April was not the worst month for retail sales, posting a respectable 0.9% increase, even beating expectations, as we can read in economic news published by Desjardins. Sales are up in 6 out of 11 sub-sectors, which together make up just under 45% of retail. »
Among categories, diverse retail stores — pet stores, cannabis, office supply and stationery stores, and swimming pool retail stores — saw an 11.3% increase. Gas stations (+3%) and clothing and accessories stores (+2.6%) also recorded growth.
However, taken by consumers during the pandemic, builders’ merchants, garden supply stores and supermarkets saw declines of 4.3% and 0.5%, respectively.