3 min read. June, 2021 – by Amanda D’Auria
For the past two years of the pandemic, consumers have been stuck at home without many options for recreational activities. The demand for athleisurewear and home goods skyrocketed during that time, and retailers like Macy’s, Gap, and Walmart benefited from this increased spending.
But now, consumer spending is starting to shift, thanks to inflation and increased travel. Customers aren’t as interested in spending their money on athleticwear or home goods anymore, leaving retailers stuck with the excess inventory.
Clothing stores like Macy’s, Gap, and Lululemon made out pretty well during the pandemic. Even though these stores were forced to close temporarily, many saw their sales increase.
Consumers were spending more time at home, travel and dining out were restricted, and many saw their savings increase thanks to stimulus checks. During this time, the demand for athleticwear and home goods steadily rose.
But now, the demand is shifting faster than many retailers anticipated. As inflation continues to rise, customers are spending more money on necessities like food and gas, and any leftover disposable income is going toward things like travel and eating out.
According to Citi analyst Paul Lejuez, retailers underestimated how quickly this shift would take place. This sudden change left stores with excess inventory that will need to be marked down and could weigh on future profits.
Walmart’s inventory increased by 33% during the first quarter, and 20% of the increase are items the company doesn’t really need. The company will have to discount most of this inventory, which will affect profits during the coming year.
Stores like Gap and Kohl’s are in similar situations — Gap’s inventory is up 34% from last year, and Kohl’s has 40% more inventory than last year.
Some elements of this situation are unique because of the pandemic and record inflation, but many business leaders have found themselves in a situation where they thought they knew what their customers wanted, only to see that demand suddenly shift.
Here are some tips for how you can stay on top of customer demand in your own business:
Always be ready to pivot: And finally, it’s only a matter of when — not if — demand will change, so you’ll need to be ready to shift your strategy. Always be looking for new solutions and be willing to try something new if you want to stay ahead of your competition.
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Amanda is the Marketing Coordinator for National Business Capital. She’s a graduate of Ziklin School of Business at CUNY Baruch College and holds a B.A. in Advertising, Marketing, and Communications. Amanda has extensive experience creating content, directing outreach campaigns, and managing operations. She is passionate about small business and helping entrepreneurs reach new heights.