How the Pandemic Changed Our Shopping Habits Entirely

How the Pandemic Changed Our Shopping Habits Entirely

by Aaron Royce

Despite the beating fashion has taken during COVID-19, trends have prevailed — even in the consignment market. Luxury resale site The RealReal has released its quarterly trend report, with numerous shopping patterns emerging during the pandemic.

The RealReal, known as a top destination for resale luxury fashion and home goods, has grown in popularity since COVID-19 hit this spring. According to the report, the site had a 27% rise in new consignors — 37% were Gen Z or millennials — and held over 25,000 virtual consignment appointments since the pandemic began.

However, the RealReal's membership isn't the only thing on the rise. The site compared its first and second quarters for 2020, revealing some interesting mid-pandemic shopping trends. While reflecting on the hellscape of 2020, it's interesting to analyze The RealReal's stats compared to what people bought last year (ah, 2019 — simpler times). Instead of heels, jumpsuits and evening bags, we're buying loungewear, tops and accessories — clear WFH and Zoom essentials.

Compared to last summer's office-wear sales, pieces like joggers and slides have only grown in popularity. And let's not forget the new normal for vacations! Beach-ready swimsuits and sandals paled in comparison to those for sunglasses and casual dresses in 2020, as people took off on road trips instead of jet-set getaways.

Louis Vuitton emerged as the site's most popular brand during the March-to-June period, beating out Gucci, Chanel and Balenciaga. LV's rise began in April, and it overtook Gucci and Chanel as the site's best-selling brand throughout the summer. This is likely owed to the increased visibility of Virgil Abloh's Vuitton this year, but also the penchant younger shoppers are having for vintage luxury bags. In particular, demand for mini LV bags rose 88% since 2019 — possibly the reason why you've seen them all over your social feeds, though there haven't been many places to take these tiny designer bags outside of your living room.

Trends related to COVID-19 and WFH culture began an ascent almost as soon as the pandemic itself. In April, as face masks faced a shortage, the RealReal had a 30% rise in sales for silk scarves, which is a pretty chic alternative as demonstrated by the demand for Christian Siriano's masks.

Once WFH became the reality for most of the country, the site experienced a 194% increase in loungewear purchases, with additional rises in sweaters, hoodies and sweatshirts. During peak summer months, tie-dye, crop tops and sneakers — all huge casual summer fashion trends this year — grew in popularity, with a 101% rise in tie-dye and 126% rise in crop top sales. It's clear that even the most of-the-moment fashion trends couldn't be stopped for the sake of an aughts-esque TikTok 'fit.

The report's final stats are some of the most surprising. Both Rolexes and engagement ring sales spiked in June, with a respective rise of 32% and 45%. It seems that shoppers are favoring investment pieces that can grow in value, or provide certainty, during the all-but-guaranteed next recession. Whether in an investment timepiece or proposal, it's clear many are searching for certainty in the face of a future that's anything but.

Overall, the results all but confirm that we are still collectively adapting to the "new normal." Loungewear for working from home, and dressier pieces for waist-up wear, are the direction shopping has shifted towards, thanks to the pandemic. With no clear end in sight, it's uncertain how long these could go on for — or if the shopping patterns revealed by the RealReal will change.

Photos courtesy of The RealReal