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Online Apparel Sales Booming

While some major brick-and-mortar retailers post weak sales of apparel, online sales of clothing and footwear has continued its upward trend this year.

Online apparel and footwear sales for 2012 hit $45.6 billion, a significant increase over the previous year’s $37.6 billion.

Industry analysts have forecast $54.2 billion in online sales of apparel and footwear for 2013.

Big box retailers may have to rethink their marketing strategies soon since online sales of apparel and footwear now account for more than 10 percent of sales in those categories.

Total US online sales in all categories are expected to total $259 billion in 2013, a 14.8 percent annual increase over last year’s $225.5 billion in sales, according to data from eMarketer, an online eCommerce tracking firm.

The impressive gains in total eCommerce sales in all categories over recent years indicate the growing importance of electronic retailing.

And the trend is expected to continue for the next few years.  Online sales of apparel and footwear are estimated at $64.5 billion for 2014, $75.7 billion for 2015, and $87.8 for 2016.

“The online channel is now a crucial driver of growth for clothing and footwear retailers to the benefit of the entire sector,” said Margaret Taylor, vice president of Moody’s Investor Service and author of a recent report on apparel retailing, “Apparel Retailers at the Crossroads.”

As online apparel sales increase, department stores and specialty apparel retailers may expand their customer base, according to Ms. Taylor.

“It should also help department stores combat a decade-long secular decline in brick-and-mortar sales,” she said.

The slump in retail store sales drove several big-box retailers, such as Nordstrom and Macy’s, to establish an online presence, Ms. Taylor said.

Discount and off-price retailers have not yet reaped the substantial revenues of  the online sales boom, but if they establish an online business integrated into their stores, they could make significant gains, according to Ms. Taylor.