In a new study sponsored by Shop.org, online clothing (apparel, accessories and footwear) sales reached $18.3 billion last year, making it the biggest e-commerce segment. For the first time in history, this fast growing category has surpassed sales coming from computer hardware and software.
The study suggests that the apparel and accessories category has experienced strong sales because of an influx of new companies and liberal shipping policies such as free shipping on returns and exchanges. Additionally, apparel and accessories retailers are integrating new technologies onto their sites including rich imaging, where customers can zoom and rotate merchandise or see the item in different colors before buying, all of which eases the mind of a customer who is hesitant to purchase apparel online.
“Apparel retailers have overcome a number of hurdles to encourage shoppers to buy clothing and accessories online,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org. “Retailers are doing such a great job online that in some cases it’s easier to find and buy clothing on the web than it is in a store.”
Another sign that e-commerce has come of age is that profitability throughout the sector has stabilized. Eighty-three percent of respondents to the survey reported profitability and 78 percent said they were more profitable than 2005. Profit as a percentage of revenue did not change, the report notes, because revenue and expenses grew as well.