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Shopping is back, Baby! 

In 2021, apparel retail and online sales recovered to pre-pandemic levels as previously sheltered consumers began shopping once again. Consumer spending levels recovered from a record sales plunge and gradually increased from January to April, but then had a sharp spike with the availability of vaccines. Spend then held strong throughout the remainder of the year.  

With consumers returning to the store to shop, you may be surprised to learn how much they’re spending on apparel this year – Consumer spend grew to $57.8 billion up from $44 billion last year, slightly rebounding from $57.6 billion in 2019.  

But what are the actual trends driving this growth? 


Key Takeaways for 2021 Apparel Trends 

  • Despite being hit hard by the pandemic, the apparel category has surpassed 2019 spend levels 
  • Average basket size is the strongest contributing factor to the increase 
  • The branded, discount, and athleisure categories are the standouts in terms of share and sales growth 
  • Apparel spend is returning in-store (v. online) 

Shop less, spend more  

Shopping trips overall are down, and fewer consumers are buying apparel (-6.8% vs. 2019), but don’t despair, there is room for optimism! Even with fewer consumers, shoppers are buying in greater quantities. The average basket size is the strongest contributing factor to the increase in apparel sales, up 13.4% compared to 2019. It’s fair to say shoppers today are extremely valuable. 

So, what are they buying? 

We’ve gathered some of the top trends for the apparel industry to uncover what’s driving growth and which categories are full of opportunity for recovery:  

  • Branded, athleisure, and discount retailers are the real winners to date in terms of share and sales growth.  
  • Department stores, shoes, and children’s apparel haven’t fully rebounded to 2019 spend levels. 
  • The shoes and athleisure categories are attracting more new customers than all other apparel sub-categories. 

Where are the spenders spending?  

By now, it’s pretty clear that while consumers were stuck at home during the height of the pandemic, online shopping became increasingly popular. Even with a digitally transformed shopping experience, shoppers rediscovered the joy of shopping in-store as share of spend slowly returned to in-store channels.  

The takeaway 

The state of the apparel industry is never static, but the changes over the past two years have been especially dramatic. Every shift and every new trend creates another opportunity for brands to grow, but only if they can learn how to change, too.  

Cardlytics allows its brand partners the opportunity to reach real people at a time when they are already thinking about their finances. In return, these consumers receive cash back on places where they already shop, or an opportunity to discover new brand to love. Partner with us to leverage insight into new apparel spending habits and increase your share of wallet amongst crucial apparel customers. 

Learn how we deliver incremental return on ad spend by contacting us today to access a free advertising opportunity assessment and gain valuable insights into your customers and competitors! 

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