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Apparel Sales Apparent Online

  |  March 28, 2003   |  Comments

If online sales are any indication, Internet users may be among the best dressed.

Online clothing sales experienced a 6 percent increase during the 2002 holiday shopping season to 35 percent, according to data from Retail Forward, registering a 13-point jump from the 2000 holiday season. This two-year surge is second only to the online purchases of DVDs (8 percent in 2000 rising to 23 percent in 2002), and indicative of a rapid growth phase.

"This is significant because apparel is one of those items that many thought would have difficulty making traction online given customers' desire to try on goods before purchasing," comments Mary Brett Whitfield, senior vice president and director of the Retail Forward E-Retail Intelligence Program, a survey of over 500 Internet users from December 27, 2002 to January 2, 2003.

Measurement data from Nielsen//NetRatings indicated that shopping sites were among the most popular destinations for women, particularly for clothing. Heavy traffic was noted to Lane Bryant, Newport News, Coldwater Creek, and Blair – sites that specialize in women's apparel.

Top Online Destinations for Females,
February 2003 (Age 18+, U.S., At Home)
Brand or Channel Composition Unique Audience
lbcatalog.com 90.0% 257,000
ltdcommodities.com 88.6% 373,000
Southernliving.com 84.8% 259,000
Newport News 84.8% 312,000
abc distributing inc 83.5% 405,000
Youravon.com 82.7% 334,000
Coldwater Creek 82.5% 512,000
Blair.com 82.4% 464,000
thebreastcancersite.com 81.4% 696,000
startsampling.com 79.7% 706,000
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Top Apparel/Beauty Destinations,
Week Ending March 9, 2003
(U.S., At Home)
Rank Brand or Channel Unique
Audience
1. Old Navy 339,000
2. The Gap 329,000
3. victoriassecret.com 327,000
4. Lands End 272,000
5. Youravon.com 258,000
6. llbean.com 250,000
7. Spiegel 246,000
8. Mary Kay 238,000
9. Chadwicks 226,000
10. Blair.com 200,000
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

But with The NPD Group, Inc. reporting that 76 percent of consumers are "being careful" about spending on discretionary products and services, online clothing sales could suffer through the second quarter of 2003, but big-ticket items are likely to be hit harder.

According to the responses of more that 2,500 individuals in early March 2003, 41 percent plan to spend less than usual in March, April and May, 14 percent are planning to spend more than usual, and 45 percent plan to spend about the same as usual.

Percentage of Consumers
Who Are Likely to Spend
"Much Less Than Usual" on:
Major appliances 49%
Consumer electronics 44%
Jewelry 44%
Cookware 43%
Furniture 42%
Small appliances 40%
Perfumes/fragrances 38%
Video games 38%
Computers/software 37%
Toys 36%
Music 35%
Entertainment 28%
Shoes/athletic footwear 28%
Full service restaurants 24%
Skincare/makeup/cosmetics 23%
Clothing/apparel 22%
Fast food 21%
Source: The NPD Group, Inc.

Offline clothing retailers have also fared well, with big revenue increases noted by BIGResearch in comparisons from March 2002 to March 2003.

Shop Most Often for Women's
& Men's Clothing Comparison
March 2003 vs. March 2002
Women's Clothing Men's Clothing
Shop Percentage Shop Percentage
WalMart +10.7% WalMart + 6.6%
JC Penney -15.9% JC Penney - 4.2%
Kohls +65.3% Sears -25.2%
Kmart - 4.7% Kohls +100.3%
Target +20.2% Kmart -14.6%
Target +20.2% Kmart -14.6%
Sears - 4.8% Target +13.1%
Source: BIGResearch

BIGResearch also found that apparel bargain-hunters were more prevalent this year than in 2003. Nearly one-quarter (23.5 percent) of consumers only bought clothing items that were on sale – compared to 15.7 percent in March 2002.

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