New DTC toolkit   //   March 26, 2020

Apparel brands are marketing their products as work from home essentials

As shoppers in the U.S. and Europe are spending more time in their homes thanks to shelter in place orders, apparel brands are seizing the opportunity by offering sales on items like loungewear and leggings, and marketing their products as essentials for people working at home.

Everlane is hosting a sale this week where shoppers can get a discount if they buy two pairs of leggings or two sweatshirts. Universal Standard is having a mix and match sale where if customers buy three products from a selection of tank tops, t-shirts, and sweaters, they get 30% off.

It’s an easier lift for some companies than others. According to retail analytics firm Edited, the number of sweatpants and bathrobes that are listed as out-of-stock on U.S. and U.K. retailers’ website (presumably because they are in high demand) respectively were up up 39% and 29% between January 1 and March 16, compared to the same period last year.

“We are in the fortunate position where any of our hero products, the products that even in good times are driving our business, our more relevant now than ever,” said Brian Berger, CEO of Mack Weldon, which sells boxer briefs, sweatpants and men’s long sleeve t-shirts.

Other retailers have to get more creative when figuring out how to market their products differently now that people are staying indoors more. Swimwear brand Andie, for example, has run some posts on its Instagram feed highlighting the different ways its fit experts, or customer service agents, are wearing its swimsuits. “We’re seeing customers who are doing yoga, taking walks, or simply lounging around in them,” Karen Zhou, customer experience manager for Andie, said in an email.

But, all retailers are going to be challenged in the coming weeks as they will have to figure out how to keep demand for their products steady, the longer shoppers remain in their homes, and how to make their messaging stand out from competitors.

“Across the board, everyone has this cozy messaging,” said Jessica Ramirez, retail research analyst at Jane Hali & Associates. Mack Weldon’s home page, for example, reads: “we figured you could use some extra comfort right about now. So we rounded up our loungewear essentials for you.”

Berger said that, for Mack Weldon, the biggest changes the company has had to make since the coronavirus outbreak revolve around “changing our tone and our merchandising to be reflective of the moment.” Mack Weldon redesigned the homepage to highlight its sweatpants and loungewear, whereas previously the company featured seasonal product launches on its homepage, like a jacket it had just recently launched.

Mack Weldon has not yet run any special sales in order to drive more sales of its sweatpants and loungewear, as the company primarily offers discounts through its loyalty program. Once customers have spent $200 or more through Mack Weldon, then they get 20% off all of their orders for a year. But, Berger said that Mack Weldon was considering hosting a virtual shopping event for its customers in the coming days, with some kind of “corporate social responsibility” tie-in.

Berger declined to say how big of an increase in loungewear sales Mack Weldon has seen in recent days, only that the “average unit sales growth” over a two day period for certain categories like sweatpants, long-sleeve t-shirts, and performance wear socks were up anywhere from one and a half to two times what they were 10 days ago.

Alexandra Waldman, co-founder and creative director of Universal Standard, said meanwhile that her company, which sells a variety of wardrobe staples in sizes 00-40, is trying to push more than just sweatpants. The work from home collection on  Universal Standard’s website not only features leggings and bathrobes, but also some collared shorts and blouses geared toward women who are having to conduct video conference calls with clients or their coworkers. She described it as “the outfit version” of “business in the front, party in the back.”

Universal Standard also launched a contest, which closed yesterday, where customers could build their “work from home” wishlist on Universal Standard’s site, and be entered to win $500 to put towards their purchase.

“We’ve tried to get creative with clustering interesting things together and offering some discounts based on theme, whether it’s that sort of business look from work, or whether it’s just totally relaxed, and you’ve got nothing to do but watch Netflix,” said Waldman.