In-store clothing purchases are up nearly 22% over last year

The saying “all dressed up with nowhere to go” seems like a pretty apt description of the American public right now.

With mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions gone, more and more Americans are heading to the stores. In-store purchases of clothing and accessories are up nearly 22% from a year ago, according to a Commerce Department estimate.

While many extracurricular activities like concerts and travel are still on hiatus, people are shopping for more clothes at this stage of the pandemic. That leaves small businesses trying to figure out exactly what people want to buy and where.

Mary Bergstrom renovated her house in Brooklyn and she bought toilets, lights and sage to burn. “Oh yeah, to get all the juju out. For real.”

Now that the essentials are taken care of, she’s ready to buy things just for fun.

“I’ve done a lot of shopping online, but it’s not very satisfying. It’s nice to be able to just walk into a store and see what’s there and feel things and see them in real life. “, she said.

That led her to this store, called Jill Lindsey. It is named after its owner, who opened the store eight years ago and wanted it to be many things: customers can buy wine or tea with a candle or a dress. They even organize events, like children’s songs.

One of the best-selling garments this winter is an oversized cream sweater made from recycled wool. Lindsey said it originally cost $268; it’s on sale now for $188.

“It’s like an ambitious piece, like this kind of knitting has an antique look. It makes you feel safe,” Lindsey said. “It’s not aggressive.”

Jill Lindsey holds up a sweater for sale in her Brooklyn store. She calls it “an ambitious piece”. (Stephanie Hughes/Market)

This desire to feel a certain way drives customers everywhere.

“So I think there’s a lot of emotional shopping going on right now,” said Natalie Kotlyar, who tracks retail trends for consulting firm BDO. “It’s the need to buy something that will make them uplifting, that will make them feel better.”

There’s an emotional need and there’s also a real need, said Bank of America economist Aditya Bhave.

“There were all these sales that were lost in 2020. We still have to wear clothes,” he said.

Small businesses have everything to gain if they make it through the pandemic, Bhave said.

Jill Lindsey said she got two federal loans totaling $86,000 to get by. Since she kept her space open, she wants people to linger there again.

Jill Lindsey stands at the coffee counter in her Brooklyn boutique with coffee in a black mug in front of her.
Jill Lindsey, at the cafe in her eponymous Brooklyn store, wants customers to linger again. (Stephanie Hughes/Market)

“Now it’s like, ‘Come in and go.’ Like, there’s less of a meeting place,” she said.

If she’s going to compete with big retailers like Anthropologie and J. Crew, Lindsey said people have to go out — and, you know, buy that sweater.

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