Casual vs. Formal Wear: Finding the Balance

How Your Brand Can Easily Harness Versatility 

Optimize Your Retail Strategy

By diving into this analysis, created using Retviews, discover how an automated competitive analysis tool can help your brand monitor competitors’ assortment, pricing, and discounting strategies, and plan your collections accordingly. 

Benefit from the data gathered with Retviews, the AI-powered fashion benchmarking platform, to elevate your brand strategy and stay on top of the competition.


Casual vs. Formal Wear:  Finding the Balance Retviews Competitive Analysis Tool Retail Strategy Improvement With Automated Benchmarking

Use the Retviews platform to benchmark your offer against your competitors

Key Takeaways 

  • Formalwear isn’t dead; it’s undergoing a revamp - although the tie may be on its way out
  • Workplace attire is becoming increasingly casual 
  • Brands are increasing their focus on activewear

The long-running global pandemic has led to changes in consumer behavior, which have had a significant impact on the fashion industry. After almost two years, as Covid restrictions are being lifted in some areas of the world, people can go out again and get back to formal dressing. However, pandemic habits - such as the tendency to opt for comfortable clothes - are now deeply rooted in the lives of consumers. This implies that fashion brands must strike the correct balance in their collections between formal and informal wear.


Blurring the Lines between Casual and Occasion Wear 

Although we are witnessing a return to the office as well as an increased prominence of social events, consumers have become accustomed to wearing casual clothing. Casual and occasion wear are coexisting in brands collections, and by giving a major focus on either formal or casual styles, brands would lose a valuable portion of the market, individuals who are prone to mixing the two contrasting styles – showcasing elevated looks without giving up on comfort. So the question remains; how can a brand nail the right mix between the two?

Casual vs. Formal Wear:  Finding the Balance Retviews Competitive Analysis Tool Retail Strategy Improvement With Automated Benchmarking

Retviews data indicates that in 2021, casual skirts and dresses had a greater share in brands' assortment, however, they lost their predominance to more formal ones, which showcased a 6% and 5% YoY increase, respectively. 

For event dressing, brands are going all out with dressier fabrics, skin baring styles and bold colors, which have increased by 5% YoY. 

The desire for stylish looks which enable comfort, is also depicted in leading brands’ footwear assortments. Although flat sandals have lost traction, as their assortment share in leading brands’ footwear assortment has decreased by a striking 30% within the past year, they are still among the leading footwear styles for women. The assortment for high heel sandals on the other hand has grown rapidly between 2021 and 2022. 

As consumers are starting to attend formal events again, leading brands are also launching special occasion lines such as weekender or wedding collections. For the weekender collections, Retviews data allows brands to identify that for men there is a major focus on casual bottoms and most specifically on bermudas, which had an 8% YoY increase in assortment. 


Formalwear 2.0 

If there is one obvious indicator of the decline of formalwear and the emergence of more comfort-focused clothes: it is the fact that the formal suit is no longer included in the Consumer Prices Index basket of products in the United Kingdom (CPI). 

The global pandemic has led to a reset of the male dress code, with a softening of formal clothing and a smartening of casual. Many retailers are adjusting their assortment mix by emphasizing casual wear and providing clients with hybrid pieces that are smart enough to wear to the workplace, whilst providing the comfort and relaxed style that they grew accustomed to during pandemic-driven lockdowns.

Menswear Assortment Retviews Competitive Analysis Tool Retail Strategy Improvement With Automated Benchmarking Sneakers Ties Suits Business Shoes

As the graph shows, there is a significant disparity in brand assortments between the UK and the US, with the latter experiencing a stronger move towards casual styles, than the UK. 

Within leading brands’ (such as Hugo Boss and Paul Smith) assortments, suit sets have declined by 22% in the US and by 8% in the UK compared to 2021, with numerous brands designing a "suit reboot" by employing flexible fabric, often used for athleisure. 

Ties, however, were substantially reduced in both the United States (by 34%), and the United Kingdom (by 36%), with many retailers making more room for knitwear (which has been deemed to be the new tie), in reaction to the move towards making workplace attire more casual.

The trend of hybrid dressing is resulting in an increased demand for sneakers, despite the end of the “lockdown era”. As it can be seen from the graph, there has been an increase of sneakers within leading brand assortments, particularly in the United States, where their assortment share increased by 10%. 

On the other hand, formal shoes have seen a significant decrease, with a prominent gap between the two countries. The assortment share for formal footwear fell by 22% in the UK and by 46% in the US. 


Making Workplace Attire Casual 

Consumer’s wardrobes are adapting to the new nine-to-five rhythm as the world heads back to the office, without compromising on the comfort of loungewear. Sharp and tailored garments are now being balanced with softer lines and fabrics, for a sophisticated yet casual style. 

Leading brands are leveraging the shift towards casual workplace dressing by creating products with new fabric alternatives and hybrid styles. Hugo Boss: known for its formal attire is now led by casual wear, as the brand has decreased its suit assortment by 28% compared to 2021. Moreover, they are tapping into the suit “reboot” as they have teamed up with Russell Athletic to create a collection of jersey fabric suits.  

Jersey Fabric Share in Hugo Boss’ Assortment Retviews Competitive Analysis Tool Retail Strategy Improvement With Automated Benchmarking Jackets Pants Suit Sweatshirts

Thanks to Retviews data, it is evident that as well as creating a jersey suit collection, Hugo Boss also largely increased the overall number of products made from a jersey fabric, to target consumers' increasing need for comfort. Looking at jersey fabric within Hugo Boss’ assortment, the focus is on suit jackets, pants, and sweatshirts - which grew by 336%, 343% and 220% respectively.  

The overall jersey fabric assortment showcased a price increase, compared to the regular collection. Retviews data indicates that the highest price hike lies within jackets and sweatshirts - whose average price grew by 49% and 38%, respectively. 

The pandemic wasn’t the only cause for consumers blending casual and formal attire in the office environment. Casual attire has become more acceptable in the US office environment as millennials, who represent a sizable portion of the working population in the US, have reshaped the ideal workplace environment, including dress codes.

Retviews data gives you access to insights on how your competitors are improving their strategies, allowing you to elevate your own. The ability to remain agile and meet the evolving wants and needs of customers is key to a brand's success. Your brand can accomplish the crucial process of redefining your product offering with ease, with the support of Retviews real-time data.

Activewear Brands: Benefiting from the Casual Shift

The increased focus of activewear is symbolic of the societal shift towards self-care and wellbeing developed during the lockdown period. The global activewear market is expected to increase 8 to 10 per cent a year until at least 2025, rising from €295 billion in 2021 to €395 billion in 2025. 


Activewear New Ins 2021 vs. 2022 Retviews Competitive Analysis Tool Retail Strategy Improvement With Automated Benchmarking Jackets Pants Suit Sweatshirts US Europe

Retviews data shows that in 2022, the assortment share of activewear in leading brands’ (such as Zara, Gap, Aritzia and Uniqlo) collections grew by 48% YoY - with March, April and May being the months with the highest increase.  

Activewear has also shown a strong price increase throughout the past year, as the average price of activewear increased by 13% YoY. 

Activewear New Ins Prices 2021 vs. 2022 Retviews Competitive Analysis Tool Retail Strategy Improvement With Automated Benchmarking US Europe

In 2022, the increase in new arrivals within the assortment, is directly proportional to the price increase. The average price increased at a steady pace until reaching its peak in May, with a price variation of +11%. In contrast, throughout the first half of 2021, January showcased the highest price throughout leading mass market brands’ assortments, which fluctuated throughout the following months, decreasing by 9%.

Retviews data shows that brands also discounted more heavily in 2022 compared to 2021, as the average discount rate was 14% higher. In 2021 however, the percentage of items that were discounted was 52% higher than in 2022, which is a strong indicator of activewear gaining popularity.

Brands that didn’t previously sell activewear are launching new collections, while the brands that already sold activewear are amplifying their offer. As the market is becoming increasingly saturated, it is even more important to take advantage of an automated benchmarking tool like Retviews, to stay ahead of the curve.


Getting the Right Assortment Mix with Automated Benchmarking

The pandemic transformed the consumer demand structure, prompting brands to adjust their merchandising strategies to offer consumers a product selection which resonates with their transition to new lifestyles. Gain real-time access to your competitors’ data, elevate your strategy, and pinpoint the right assortment mix with Retviews.

Use the Retviews platform to benchmark your offer against your competitors