Teleconferencing workers change Walmart’s sales mix

Discussion
Photo: @9_fingers_ via Twenty20
Mar 31, 2020
Al McClain

We’ve all heard of shoppers hoarding toilet paper, cleaning supplies, canned goods, hand sanitizer and the like. Extensive stockpiling, however, is not the only change in consumer shopping behavior that retailers are seeing in their stores and on their websites. Walmart, for one, has noticed that newly at-home customers are buying clothes differently since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S.

The retailer, according to reports in The Washington Post and on Yahoo Finance, has found that sales of men’s shirts and women’s tops have increased as more people work remotely. Pants sales, though, aren’t up. Walmart says the answer can be found in video conferencing. Remote workers want to look good, at least as far as what’s visible.

“People … are concerned, obviously, from the waist up. These behaviors are going to continue to change and evolve as people get accustomed to this new lifestyle,” said Dan Bartlett, Walmart EVP of corporate affairs.

Wendy Liebmann, CEO and chief shopper at WSL Strategic Retail, said the sales of tops had been accelerating before remote work became the norm for many Americans. She attributed this to the selfie trend, wherein pants are frequently left out of photos.

Fashion psychologist Dawnn Karen claims that people not dressing in the same clothes they typically wear to the office makes them feel less productive and contributes to lower self-esteem.

To avoid disapproval, silent or spoken, from superiors and associates, workers on video calls may wear tops suited for business, but keep on their pajamas or sweatpants out of camera’s view. By dressing for success from the middle up, people seek to convey to others that they are working hard. It helps workers find a measure of control in a new routine with no defined end date in sight.

Ms. Liebmann says that the longer people work from home, the less attention they will pay to their wardrobes. One of the reader comments following the Post story said that pants are “now optional.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What recent changes in consumer shopping behavior do you expect will become habits when the coronavirus pandemic ends? Do you think that how people dress changes their effectiveness and efficiency when working from home?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"More remote working and more physical distancing will drive more usage of personal products – as opposed to products related to any social activities."
"It’s a business mullet: All business on the top and “I’m going back to bed” on the bottom."
"Many companies may determine that WFH will become a permanent solution. Therefore apparel trends will gravitate toward that lifestyle — as we’re seeing right now."

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15 Comments on "Teleconferencing workers change Walmart’s sales mix"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Lots of interesting trends are emerging. Spend on rental apparel is down sharply, mainly because a lot of consumers use such services for workwear and for going out or big occasions. All of those needs are lessened during the current crisis. I don’t expect these trends to linger much. The idea that everyone will suddenly love working from home and will want to stay in all the time is garbage. We are a sociable nation – we like interacting with others and most of us can’t wait until normality resumes!

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

It’s amazing what retail buying habits change when you don’t have to buy clothes for work – or even for a night out with friends at a restaurant or party. Dress for success takes on an entirely new meaning. As we work remotely and use video capability to interact with our colleagues and customers, there will be some level of professionalism. But not having to worry as much about traditional “work clothes” will change the retail world. And once we go back to normal, if there is such a thing, another shift will occur. We may not ever go back to exactly where we were before this started, but there will be a shift to the new normal that is closer to what used to be than what we have today.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

Pants or bottoms have always been secondary to shirts or blouses, right? We all have more shirts and continue to buy more to change up our wardrobes, whether to look good on our video calls or beyond that. What does surprise me is how many people look like they just rolled out of bed which may be more problematic than wearing pajama bottoms.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust
Suresh Chaganti
Co-Founder and Executive Partner, VectorScient
2 months 5 days ago

In the short- to medium-term, personal hygiene products, essentials, grocery, and affordable luxuries, productivity products, and small personal electronics will do well. More remote working and more physical distancing will drive more usage of personal products – as opposed to products related to any social activities.

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

How people dress certainly changes the way they work from home, minimally it sets a boundary in their day – boundaries are a critical part of how to work from home successfully.

Once the pandemic ends, I predict online/curbside/pick-up ordering of groceries and household needs will continue to see a significant increase and become normal. Stories of how people managed their households successfully will emerge, and automated grocery/household goods will be part of that story.

Another area where I predict massive COVID-19 impact is with personal care service/retail. Consumers are doing their own personal care right now, trying new products, and learning new skills. There will likely be a rush in the personal care services sector, and consumers will have new ideas and demands based on what they’ve learned during the pandemic.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
Years ago, when businesses started first with dress-down Fridays and then casual business attire, many workers had a tougher time feeling productive. Some companies stepped up their dress codes for that reason. Over the last several years, we have had more employees working remotely from home to save companies money. These people as well have often admitted it was an adjustment but, in time, they became comfortable. Now today those forced to work from home are also adjusting. No one knows how long this will last, but I believe with each day passing employees are gradually becoming used to the idea, and soon I think we’ll find less concern about what shirt or blouse people should be wearing. It’s not how you look but what you are accomplishing that is most important. I do wonder, though, as more people are working from home and becoming more comfortable with it, and many who may find they like it and even prefer it, what is going to happen when the quarantine is over and everyone is expected… Read more »
Scott Norris
Guest

Already a week-and-a-half in, I’m seeing no good reason as an analyst/planner that I have to keep a chair warm from 8 to 5 every weekday — yes, there is value in face-to-face meetings and I miss the social interaction, and yes I will need to work up planograms and trade show booths, etc., but probably 50% of the time I could do what I do from home, Starbucks, the park, etc.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

Agreed. No having to deal with the rush hour commute, finding a parking space and having to walk in the rain from the car to the building, a cold office in the winter and hot office in the summer when someone else controls the thermostat … the list goes on. It’s true we lose the socializing but now we have Facetime, Skype, and Zoom. But more importantly, CFOs will quickly realize how much money they can save on less office space, desks, phones, and supplies with more people working from home. I see more and more people working from and after the quarantine is over, those who may have been skeptical will have changed their minds.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

The apparel habits are probably temporary for two reasons. Wardrobe purchasing decisions are based on consumers needing to look good when working and when they are out with friends and family. Once we return to “normal,” apparel shopping habits should return to normal. The other driver of falling apparel purchases today is lack of discretionary income due to job losses or fear of job loss. Again, once unemployment goes down, apparel spending should be back to normal.

But some of these spending habits may be tweaked forever. I suspect we will see more companies realizing that remote workforces are feasible for many roles and that they can help reduce office costs. The percentage of remote workers is likely to increase and that will reduce the need for business attire.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

It’s a business mullet: All business on the top and “I’m going back to bed” on the bottom.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I believe that some industries will see significant savings from not having to pay for onsite office space, after seeing remote work being productive. Work-from-home employees often do not adhere to strict 9 to 5 hours, as they check email and do productive work almost 24/7 (This is not a scientific finding, just my opinion). Also there is no time nor expense lost to commuting. Many companies may determine that WFH will become a permanent solution. Therefore apparel trends will gravitate toward that lifestyle — as we’re seeing right now.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Buying habits are sure to change during the pandemic. Especially for apparel purchases – with high-end fashion suffering the most. I expect the rental services that were seeing tremendous success, like Rent the Runway, will see noticeably lower sales now to the point of severely impacting their business. Having been working remotely for the past four years, I have found it’s important not to let the idea of “working from home” change your work habits dramatically, or it becomes too easy to be distracted from your normal productivity. Many businesses were already dressing down in the office and that’s sure to continue with so many working from home now. Sportswear apparel certainly took over my closet space when I started working from home compared to my previous set of all-business attire! However, that also meant that my purchases for business attire became much more selective and the details of what I shop for changed. For many items, I seek out higher quality and more fashionable items than before. Will that change in a post-pandemic world?… Read more »
Gregory Osborne
BrainTrust

Though many will return to work in the office after this pandemic, some employers and employees will learn that working from home is efficient. I predict the market will see a larger portion of the American workforce working from home. As a result, the market will see home offices moving from often makeshift basement dwellings to comfortable and modern offices.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

One of the things I’ve noticed during the (endless) press conferences — in addition to the fact that few seem to be adhering to the distancing guidelines! — is how nicely everyone is dressed. I remember from past disasters was when you saw a mayor/governor/bureaucrat in a work shirt you knew it was serious! (And indeed I believe Governor Cuomo has begun to appear so dressed.)

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

I keep wondering why men still wear ties to work and women still wear high heels. Both of them play no role in the way the work gets done. The only men I see wearing ties every day are lawyers and politicians. That should tell you something.

Work and home is going to be here to stay for many employees and another change in the way we dress for success is going to happen.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"More remote working and more physical distancing will drive more usage of personal products – as opposed to products related to any social activities."
"It’s a business mullet: All business on the top and “I’m going back to bed” on the bottom."
"Many companies may determine that WFH will become a permanent solution. Therefore apparel trends will gravitate toward that lifestyle — as we’re seeing right now."

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