As our social media feeds and TV screens are flooded with continuous news cycles of the coronavirus pandemic it can be hard to escape. Beginning at the tale end of 2019 the COVID-19 outbreak has been all too consuming.
Originating in China, COVID-19 is a flu- like virus which attacks the airways and lungs causing the infected to contract a continuous cough, have a high fever and in some – more severe – cases can cause difficulties when breathing.
As a high number of civilians who have contracted the virus go on to need medical care, health services and hospitals across the world are beginning to struggle. This new virus is sweeping the globe at an alarming rate and, at current there is no cure for the virus resulting in a high mortality rate.
Governments across the globe are constantly trying to think of new ways to slow the spread of the virus as scientists and health care professionals work tirelessly trying to create a vaccine.
Countrywide lockdowns have been enforced all over the world – including here in the UK. On Monday the 23rd of March, the UK Prime Minister ordered UK citizens to stay at home and to only leave their homes if absolutely necessary – the only exceptions were made for key workers. Some may argue Boris Johnstone was delayed in calling for a UK lockdown however, in the end it was the right decision.
We, as a nation, have been drip fed news on the coronavirus outbreak since it was discovered in China and watched – mouths open – as it quickly made its way here. We watched as the seriousness of the situation escalated and the 6 o’clock news got increasingly intense warning us of the dangers to come. This brought panic. The British public began preparing for an apocalypse. Bulk buying items like toilet paper, pasta and hand wash – leaving most supermarket shelves bare of these essential items. It is apparent the scaremongering of the media and news channels has embedded people with fear causing them to behave in such ways.
As people begin working from home and work places close, many economies are preparing for the financial loss this pandemic will cause. Families’ and businesses’ incomes are at risk with reports suggesting 52% of Brits believe the Coronavirus may lead us into a recession within a year. It’s a scary time for all of us.
So, what does this mean for the world of fashion?
Consumers across the globe are being advised to stay at home. As governments implement strict social distancing guidelines and cities are put under lockdown, footfall in fashion retail stores has seen a significant drop.
Springboard’s retail monitor stated that footfall – across the globe – had dropped by a massive 70%. Due to this many fashion brands have been forced to temporarily close their stores. Major department stores like John Lewis and Selfridges were among some of the first stores to close in the UK. They were closely followed by high street fashion giants H&M and Topshop.
These are very uncertain times for employees of these fashion retailers as it is not known when the stores will reopen and if they will survive this crisis. H&M have already been in discussion with their landlords pushing for agreements on ‘rent-free periods’ due to the fall in sales and store closures. The fast fashion retailer also pressured landlords to create a break in the ‘keep open clause’ of their lease, meaning they can close their stores giving landlords only one months notice if their sales do not return to the same level as before this pandemic occurred.
It is clear high street brands are struggling and are worried about the financial loss this will impose. Zara – another high street name which closed all of their 4,000 stores – even predicted a huge financial loss of £265 million in the months ahead.
It is not only high street fashion brands that are feeling the pinch due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Financial Times predicts the luxury fashion market will lose between $450 and $650 billion. They expect the luxury fashion market to be hit harder now than when it was hit by the 2010 recession. Southern Europe is expected to be the worst effected with an approximate drop in sales of 85% – 95% between March and May.
As luxury fashion houses report loses within the retail sector, many of them have also had to cancel their Cruise/Resort fashion shows. Gucci, Burberry and Prada have all cancelled shows which act as a platform to bring their clothing to audiences amongst the 4 fashion capitals of the world. Other prestigious events in the fashion calendar have also been cancelled or postponed – including the CFDA awards and the Met Gala.
Although, it is not all doom and gloom. Many established names within the fashion industry have spoken out about how they are helping the world in this time of crisis. Gucci have pledged to make 1.1 million surgical masks and 55,000 overalls for health care workers.
Similarly, Paris-based Balenciaga and Saint Laurent are also lending a hand as they announce they are altering their supply chains, preparing them for mask production. In addition, H&M and Zara have also began production of surgical masks to help with the world wide shortage. It is evident that even in times of crisis the fashion world are resilient and can pull together.
Overall, one could argue that the media are responsible for scaremongering and creating nation wide panic. However, the coronavirus is a very real threat to the human race and without the measures that have been put in place health care services, including the NHS, would not be able to cope with the strain.
It is important that we follow government guidelines and stay at home but also limit our news and social media intake for the sake of our mental health. Lastly, the world of fashion is facing uncertain times. But, brands have shown resilience and we can only hope that our favourite stores reopen and that the high street will be busy once again when this is all over.
By Emma Sneddon