Overview of the online apparel industry

Online apparel sales continue to grow in the United States and take a greater share of the overall apparel market.

Digital Commerce 360 estimates U.S. online apparel sales reached $159.46 billion in 2021, a 15.6% year-over-year increase from $137.94 billion in 2020.

While online sales growth typically outpaces store-based sales growth and total sales growth, the narrative changed in 2021. Store-based apparel sales came roaring back after a drop during the pandemic, with offline sales growing 53% year over year in 2021.

This growth makes sense given the challenges of 2020, when many physical apparel stores closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When stores did reopen, many consumers limited in-person shopping trips to just essential products. What’s more, many apparel stores didn’t have their dressing rooms open in 2020, which is a key appealing point of physical store apparel shopping.

With store sales surging, total U.S. apparel sales grew 34.6% in 2021, after decreasing 18.3% in 2020.

While physical stores are clawing back some of the apparel market share, many shoppers have continued to shop for clothes and accessories online after the pandemic. As detailed later in this report, online apparel merchants provide a robust customer experience and best-in-class services like free return shipping and curbside pickup. Plus, many consumers enjoy the convenience and size selection ecommerce apparel merchants offer.

And so, 42.2% of all apparel sales in the U.S. are made online, up nearly 10 percentage points from 2019, when a third (33.3%) of apparel sales were made online. During the pandemic in 2020, nearly half of apparel sales were made online at 49.2%.

These figures represent all U.S. apparel and accessories sales, including sales from both apparel-focused merchants like Macy’s Inc. and The Gap Inc., as well as apparel sales at mass merchants, including Amazon.com Inc., Target Corp. and Walmart Inc.

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