Nearly three in four top online apparel retailers are offering a sales promotion, with more than half of those sales being sitewide. Online apparel retailers also make adjustments to their return policies, with many offering free returns and extensions.

Online apparel retailers are turning to deep discounts and sitewide sales to help buoy revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

During an April 9 check, Digital Commerce 360 editors found that 91 of the top 124 online apparel retailers were offering a sale to online shoppers. Digital Commerce 360 ranks the top North American retailers based on their global ecommerce sales, and within the Digital Commerce 360 Top 500, there are 124 online apparel retailers. TJX Cos. Inc. (No. 155) is included in this analysis, although the retailer turned off all of its ecommerce sites—including Marshalls.com, TJMaxx.com and SierraTradingPost.com—on April 7.

Image of Marshalls.com blank homepage with a message that reads, "Our site is currently. Unavailable."

At 91 retailers, that means 73% of top online apparel retailers had a promotion. Of these retailers, 53% had a sitewide sale, which is common for sales holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The median discount online apparel retailers offered on their homepages was 40% off, according to Digital Commerce 360. The highest was 90% off.

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However, discounting can only go so far, says Paula Rosenblum, co-founder and managing partner at retail marketing firm RSR Research.

“No one needs apparel if they’re not going anywhere,” Rosenblum says. “Retailers will do what they have to do to try to goose sales, but with 13%—and rising—unemployment, I just don’t see a lot of buying activity.”

She adds: “Apart from comfortable, stay-at-home clothes, I think the category is dead as a doornail.”

Retailers have likely sensed this and adapted many of their on-site and marketing messages to reflect it. The 124 top online apparel retailers have worked to market their products to appeal to shoppers staying, working and exercising at home. Much of the messaging uses the words “cozy,” “lounge” and “comfort.”

Image of tailored COVID-19 marketing on Gap.com’s homepage. Image reads "Home Sweats Home" over a picture of four consumers in sweat clothing.

Tailored COVID-19 marketing on Gap.com’s homepage.

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Image of Hanes.com’s website featuring an image that reads “Comfort you can count on,” with two 50% off deals. Image also includes a man and a woman smiling at one another in their undergarments.

Hanes.com markets its products as comfortable.

In addition, many retailers advertised messages of “togetherness” or “We’re all in this together” on their homepages.

Macys.com’s homepage features a together message.

Macys.com’s homepage features a together message. The image announces, “Extra 30% off. we know that even small things can make a difference right now so here is our special offer. Just a little something to brighten your day.”

 

Nike encourages consumers to exercise at home. With a message that says "Let's Do this Together." and "Stay home."

Nike encourages consumers to exercise at home.

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This coronavirus-related marketing has extended to retailers’ email messages as well.

 

A marketing email from Nordstrom with the image of a sweat suit and the caption "Corporate Comfort. A silk matched set stands in for 9-to-5 suiting."

An email from Nordstrom.

 

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A marketing email from Revolve shows a girl using her smartphone for a video call.

An email from Revolve.

Returning online orders when many stores are closed due to the coronavirus is a common concern for consumers. On their ecommerce sites, 39% of the apparel retailers had an announcement of a modified return policy. For example, many store-based retailers announced they would extend how long shoppers had to return items to the store, based on when shoppers made the purchase or when their stores would re-open.

Retailers also announced adjustments to how shoppers could return online orders, with more than 44% of the apparel retailers offering free return shipping for online purchasing. Some apparel retailers, like Brooks Brothers (No. 188), tout their modified return policies on their homepage and clearly spell it out to shoppers on the returns page, while other retailers bury return details in customer service sections of their sites.

Brooks Brothers prominently updates shoppers on its modified policies. The image shows the large return policy update.

Brooks Brothers prominently updates shoppers on its modified policies.

 

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