Young woman sitting meditatively wrapped in comfortable shawl

What's hot in fashion: health, comfort, and safety

When it comes to fashion, we often talk about what’s in and what’s out—like flats vs. heels. But after the year we’ve had so far, the conversation is entirely different. What’s in today is health, comfort, and safety—both personal and financial.

For confirmation, look no further than the trends we’ve seen at Affirm since mid-March. The patterns—detailed below—present new opportunities for your marketing as you prepare for the busiest shopping season of the year.

A twist on the ‘lipstick effect’

Consumers are focusing on self-care while at home, and products that enhance health and beauty have seen higher demand since March. The use of skincare products is up 40%, and we’ve seen the fastest growth in our health and beauty category during this same time. With some restrictions still in place on opening salons and spas, it’s no surprise that sales of skin and nail care—as well as hair styling accessories—are up. 

Retailers selling products that help people look good during Zoom calls can find an advantage today, especially as many shoppers are spending more to take care of their skin. Signet Jewelers CEO Virginia Drosos recently said “Zoom-worthy jewelry” like earrings and pendants are also selling well.

The growth in this category may also be a variation on the “lipstick effect”—a phenomenon from previous economic crises seen in luxury goods. The idea is that shoppers may avoid fancy coats and dresses during a downturn, but they’ll still buy a lipstick that gives a similar feeling of luxury—for a fraction of the cost. Today, LED eye masks or do-it-yourself facials may have a similar appeal.

Questions to help you find opportunities for holiday marketing and beyond:

  • How do your products enhance personal health, hygiene, or beauty?

  • In what ways can your products affordably add to a feeling of luxury?

  • How can you use the Zoom phenomenon to highlight benefits of your products?

The year of athleisure

People are buying comfortable clothes to wear as they spend more time at home. This summer sweatpants sales spiked 80%, according to the New York Times. Athleisure now makes up nearly 20% of online apparel sales—a surge that accelerated during the pandemic. We’ve seen some of our partner brands adapt to this trend with some creative marketing, like Alphalete Athletics’ limited-run product releases on Instagram that look good while you’re running errands or working from home. 

Other brands have adapted some promotions to highlight how comfortable their clothes are while still being fashionable. This creation from rag & bone—is it a jean or a sweatpant?—is a great example.

But the surge in athleisure isn’t just about comfort. Our homes have become gyms, too. Sales in Affirm’s home fitness category were up over 160% this spring. Shoppers are still buying yoga pants, bike shorts, and other comfortable gear that perform just as well during a workout or a team meeting at the dining room table.

Questions to help you find promotional opportunities:

  • How do your products enhance comfort while at home?

  • Can you highlight customer testimonials of how your products are versatile for both fitness activities and lounging in comfort?

  • How can your products complement a home workout or add to the coziness of spending more time at home? (This may be especially effective for holiday-themed promotions.)

Safety and value are top of mind

The holiday season will be very different this year, with an emphasis on digital experiences—including virtual fitting rooms—to safeguard the health of shoppers. Similarly, more shoppers are opting for contactless transactions to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

During this time of uncertainty, shoppers are also gravitating toward options that protect their financial well-being. They want flexibility and control over how they pay for purchases, which has increased their interest in pay-over-time options like Affirm. In our fashion category, we saw a 5% lift in volume from shoppers buying with Affirm during the 2-month period after March 15, compared with the same period just before that date. 

Discounts have long been a popular way to attract shoppers during an economic downturn, but you can opt for a different tactic to help save your margins—0% APR promotions. This interest-free way to split a purchase over time is popular with shoppers and delivered nearly 40% of our fashion sales volume during the 2 months after March 15. These offers can also differentiate your business as other retailers stop discounting merchandise during the holidays.

Questions to help you identify marketing opportunities:

  • How does your store experience cater to customers interested in contactless transactions?

  • How are you marketing the availability of flexible payment options?

  • Which popular items might sell well as part of a 0% APR promotion rather than a discount?

While these fashion trends aren’t what any of us expected this fall, I’m eager to see how brands continue to adapt to the priorities of health, comfort, and safety as we move into a new year.

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