How Covid-19 has impacted Clothing Stores

Sale sign in the shopping mall. Discount tag. Bangkok. Asia.
Photo by Artem Beliaikin

There is no doubt that the impact of COVID-19 has truly been felt by many clothing stores and by the fashion industry in general. As a result, many stores across the United States have either fired, laid off, or cut hours of their employees since there isn’t a high demand for clothes right now. This has financially affected and burdened the employees.

Amanda Rogers, a team member who works at Target in the apparel and accessories section, was one of the people whose job was affected by the pandemic. “First, it has changed what we prioritize while working. The trucks we get are essential items, so we don’t get as many clothes on it anymore. Also, new work areas are being made like cleaning and people counting the guests we allow at the stores,” said Rogers. “They pulled us to other sections in the stores, and we have to be trained all over again.”  

Since people can’t return and try stuff on, the traffic has become very quiet in the apparel and accessories section at Target. This section used to be the most-shopped area in the store and its weird to see it be the least shopped area. 

Wendy Marshal, a style consultant who works at Target in the apparel and accessories section, is another employee to be affected in many aspects. “We are going through more cleaning measures, we have new roles now. I’m not a style consultant anymore; they’ve started scheduling me random shifts like cashiering, cleaning, and count people.” said Marshal. “People are choosing not to buy clothes because of the new return policy. I currently am not getting any hours in the style department, and the hours I am getting are now cut in half.” said Marshal.

In these days it seems like shopping for clothes is a luxurious activity until we get back on our feet.

Rebecca Dias, assistant professor at the fashion design department at Radford University says, “I believe clothing stores are facing heavy losses due to the current pandemic and lock downs that are being imposed on many countries. With fewer people out and about and widespread panic about shortage of food and essential material, shopping for clothing seems to be an almost luxurious activity. However, my major concern would be regarding the people involved in the apparel industry.” said Dias. 

With no exact date on when the global pandemic will be over, garment factory workers in developing countries are now jobless as this is their only source of income,

“The apparel industry is a 2.4 trillion-dollar industry that relies heavily on manpower for its success, from garment factory worker to store employers,” Dias added. “With the wide spread impact of COVID-19, I am quite positive that this has weighed heavily on the entire industry, from shutting down of stores, leaving store employees without a job, and also garment factory workers in developing countries like Bangladesh and India, where they already receive very low wages for their work. I feel very strongly for these garment workers in developing countries, as for most of them, this is their only source of income, and they live in extreme poverty. Not having a job at this time might leave some without access to essentials, such as food.” said Dias.  

Ganna Gabbas, an assistant manager at Macy’s located inside the New River Mall in Christiansburg and a fashion merchandise major, thinks that it’s time for the fashion industry to consider ethical producing, 

“I think, this is a good time for apparel companies to think twice about their business model; they have grown by prompting over consumption and materialism to the general public,” said Gabbas “I think this might be a good opportunity for them to consider more ethical ways of producing and selling garments that are long lasting and beneficial to the individual, the community, and the environment,” said Gabbas. 

Gabbas is another person from management that was also affected by the pandemic, “ Our hours were first reduced to half, then we were laid off for a couple of weeks after the pandemic started I understand that company is financially suffering right now, but we have a lot of questions regarding our future with the company.” said Gabbas. 

Merna Sayed, a sales associate at KOHL’S, is also one of two employees that was left with no clear idea when she will be back to her job and whether they will be keeping her or not, “We still don’t know when we’re having our jobs back,” said Sayed. “The store keeps sending us videos on how to deal with the pandemic and recommended to file for the unemployment insurance benefits. I’ve been applying everywhere but it seems like retails are on a temporary hiring-freeze.” 

With hundreds of thousands of people left unemployed due to the economic shut down, people might be more conscious of how they spend their money, and there is no point of buying clothes. Dr. Farrell Doss, a professor in the fashion design department at Radford University, believes that there is no point of purchasing non-essential stuff, “The effect has been devastating for most clothing stores. Easter is an important season for many clothing stores,” said Doss. “Since all employment venues beside those of health and safety are shuttered, there is no reason for individuals to purchase clothing. Plus, manufacturers are not producing apparel and stores have no mechanism to procure merchandise.”  

Layoffs and firings have already happened. Some retailers will not survive because this event will cause a global recession. Doss added. 

“Some industries will not be able to revive from this,” said Doss. “Unemployment is at record levels. Most clothing is not a necessity but a luxury.  People will not buy more clothing until other pressing aspects of their lives are satisfied; they’ll have to downsize, restructure, maybe even file Chapter 9 – those firms with deep pockets will be OK.” said Doss.