Online apparel sales in 2017 grew at a fast, but not blazing pace in 2017—making the category, well, average.
Cumulative sales for the apparel retailers in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000 were up 18.4% in 2017. That put apparel in the middle of the pack among the 15 product categories tracked by Internet Retailer and just under the 18.5% cumulative sales growth rate for the Top 1000 as a whole.
Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1 in the in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000), plays a significant role in the online market for apparel and accessories. Internet Retailer estimates the online retail giant had a 22.8% market share in this category in 2017. But 75.1% of online clothing sales came from the Top 1000 retailers that specialize in selling clothing, accessories (including luggage) or shoes.
Online channel gains market share
Online apparel is a crowded marketplace. 266 of the retailers ranked in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000 are dedicated apparel retailers—more than any other product category. And that does not include mass-merchant giants like Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. (No. 3). Online apparel sales accounted for 27.4% of overall U.S. apparel sales in 2017, according to Internet Retailer estimates. That’s up from 23.5% in 2016 and 20.7% in 2015.
The five largest dedicated online apparel retailers are store-based chains that have embraced an omnichannel approach, led by department store chains Macy’s Inc. (No. 6) and Nordstrom Inc. (No. 16).
Customers expect to access retailers on their smartphones and computers seamlessly and have their orders fulfilled on their terms. That realization is why retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (No. 69) and Carter’s Inc. (No. 103) are investing heavily in making themselves available to customers on all channels.
For the third quarter ended Nov. 3, Abercrombie reported online sales represented 28% of its total sales. For the full year, the company said it expected its e-commerce sales to surpass $1 billion. Part of the rise in digital sales was due to an expansion of its omnichannel initiatives, said CEO Fran Horowitz on an earnings call transcribed by Seeking Alpha. Abercrombie has seen a sharp rise in consumers buying items online and picking them up in its stores and order-in-store usage globally, after finding success with the programs in the U.S., she said.
Children’s clothing retailer Carter’s Inc. sees its omnichannel approach as key to winning over higher-spending consumers and driving customers to its stores, CEO Michael Casey said in an Oct. 22 third-quarter conference call with analysts.
“Those customers who shop both online and in our stores now spend more than twice the annual amount of our online-only customers,” he said during the call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.
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