Creatures of comfort
2 Sep 2021
This week: Getting comfy. As always, we aim to present the macro and microtrends shaping retail. (And of course, to please).
Vaccines! But variants. Honey bees are back! Everywhere is on fire. Sometimes it feels like it’s the shit year that never ends.
Is it any wonder that we all want to feel cosy?
• Softcore is a thing, in both streetwear and home goods. “Tactile fabrications are key – think terry toweling and teddy textures,” noted Edited. Spending on throws jumped 125%, bedding revenue is way up. We want our slippers real nice and fluffy. Knitwear and comfy clothing sales are still strong. “Softcore is a world that’s cozy, comfortable; you feel protected. Your clothing’s soft, your house feels soft, the colors are soft,” said trend forecaster Jane Boddy.
• Allbirds just launched a new line of stretchy running clothes. Levi Strauss is acquiring the athleisure brand Beyond Yoga. Get ready to embrace… workleisure? “The last year has accelerated and entrenched a broader trend toward casual wear that’s benefitting activewear players,” reported The Business of Fashion. “Even if people are going back to work, they’re not leaving comfort,” said Simeon Siegel, managing director at BMO Capital Markets. “The pie has stretched”. (Like your trousers).
• We’re seeking comfort in all sorts of places, including at the table. “Comfort food prioritizes mental wellness,” noted Newsweek. America’s most ordered dessert of 2020 was apple pie. “The uncertainty of the past year is driving a push away from fad diets and towards comfort – and even nostalgic – eating. Some 53% of consumers have been buying nostalgic childhood snacks in recent months, according to Mondelez,” noted The Future Laboratory. Another fun fact: romance novels, “literary comfort food”, have been bestsellers.
“Comfort consumerism” is how Vogue Business puts it – the act of shoppers “indulging in purchases in the pursuit of consolation”.
There’s some guilt in that pleasure, though. “Human beings have a long history of suspecting that pleasure and indulgence are negative things,” wrote Imogen West-Knights in a piece titled “Treat brain: how the pandemic is rewiring our minds” in The Financial Times.
Speaking of brains, you probably don’t need to see the stats to believe that rates of anxiety and depression are a lot higher than they were pre-pandemic.
• We’ve all been in a pretty relentless state of high alert. Nearly half of small business owners in the U.S. are unable to fill job openings, which is a record number. One hypothesis about the slow return to the labour force? The bad health of our brains. Critical to our grey matter? You guessed it: socialising. Throughout rolling lockdowns and prolonged alone time, it’s not a shocker that one of the top three things we yearn for is to gather en masse, in-person again.
• Public spaces are also vital to mental health. Physical retail to the rescue? More than two thirds of small businesses in the UK engage with their customers face to face. Some are even built around bettering people’s mental health. Head Room Café in London is a social enterprise that offers coffee, cake, and mental health services. Who knew random chat with strangers (not the creepy kind) would be linked to better wellbeing in the long run.
• You might get that serotonin hit from scrolling, but there’s pretty cold comfort in on-screen convenience. “It’s more convenient to buy things online, but you miss a key emotional element for the customer, which is human touch and connection. Bricks and mortar spaces are still a fundamental touchpoint for the brands,” said Federica Levato, a partner at Bain.
We’re searching for the feels, both emotional and tactile.
As we head into the snuggle season, it might just be all about those creature comforts.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.