Online apparel sales accounted for 38.6% of total U.S. apparel sales in 2019 and 100% of the growth in retail clothing sales.
Ecommerce’s share of apparel sales has grown nearly 10 percentage points in the past 3 years, as online apparel sales accounted for 34.0% of total U.S. apparel sales in 2018 and 29.9% in 2017, according to Digital Commerce 360 estimates. And ecommerce captured an even greater share of apparel sales throughout 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, ecommerce contributed all of the 1.9% year-over-year growth in total U.S. apparel sales. Offline apparel sales decreased 5.2% in 2019 compared to 2018, after declining 1.8% in 2018 compared with 2017. Digital Commerce 360 factors in apparel sales from both apparel-focused merchants and mass merchants in these online and total sales figures.
The all-new 2020 Online Apparel Report looks at why ecommerce continues to be a key part of the apparel market. It also investigates how the coronavirus pandemic has driven online sales in every retail category, including apparel.
Who are the leading online apparel retailers?
The merchant selling the most apparel online is web behemoth Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000. The mass merchant grew its web apparel sales by 22.6% in 2019—faster than the 250 top online apparel-focused merchants, which collectively grew 13.7% in 2019.
However, many smaller online clothing retailers are growing even faster than Amazon. Many are digitally native and vertically integrated, which means they control every step of the process from garment design to direct sales to consumers. In fact, all of the top 10 fastest-growing online apparel retailers are born-on-the-web-brands and six are consumer brand manufacturers that are categorized as digitally native, vertically integrated brands, or DNVBs.
These merchants use the wealth of data they get through their direct connections with shoppers to quickly adjust their products to meet consumers’ wants. They are cultivating their audiences with smart marketing tactics and fresh business models. These merchants are focused on acquiring customers profitability and working to increase these shoppers’ lifetime value.
Many of the long-established retail chains that get most of their online sales from apparel, both department stores and specialty retailers, are not keeping up with these upstarts, from an online sales growth or innovation standpoint. Many apparel retail chains, most of them traditional store-based companies, filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and 2020. And the COVID-19 crisis only worsened the situation for many of these merchants.
Because of the pandemic and its impact on jobs and the economy, many consumers plan to reduce their discretionary spending, including purchases of apparel, and that may not revert to normal levels for some time. In a Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights survey of 950 online consumers, 32% expect to spend less on online apparel in the remainder of 2020, and 48% will spend about the same. Only 20% will increase spend on online apparel.
Retailers that can adapt fast—with curbside pickup and remerchandising to feature the hottest products for the current stay-at-home environment, like athleisure—are best positioned to salvage the year, and perhaps even make gains. The broad shift to more online shopping driven by the coronavirus crisis will make ecommerce an even bigger part of apparel retailing going forward.
The new 2020 Online Apparel Report report includes:
- More than two dozen charts quantifying the online and total apparel market
- Data and analysis on the largest and fastest-growing online apparel merchants
- Data on Amazon’s apparel market share and influence
- Online and total apparel sales for Amazon, Walmart and Target
- Exclusive interviews with top online apparel merchants
- How COVID-19 has impacted the online apparel market
- Data on the increasing number of apparel retailers filing for bankruptcy
- Analysis of the growing athleisure subcategory online
- Exclusive survey data about how consumers shop for apparel
- View the table of contents here
The 2020 Online Apparel Report can be downloaded now as a PDF for $399. Digital Commerce 360 Gold and Platinum Members receive a complimentary copy of this report as a part of their membership.