Online Clothing Sales Continue Climbing E-Commerce Ladder

Online apparel sales reached $1.1 billion in 1999, roughly twice the amount of 1998 sales, according to the NPD Group, Inc. During the first part of 1999, online apparel sales remained fairly static and rose dramatically during the fourth quarter. NPD’s research found the climb should continue, with triple-digit growth anticipated for 2000.


1999 Online Apparel Sales
Month Dollars
(millions)
Share of Total
Apparel Dollars
Jan. 71.0 0.6%
Feb. 48.4 0.4%
March 66.6 0.5%
April 28.9 0.2%
May 51.1 0.4%
June 66.5 0.5%
July 71.0 0.5%
Aug. 67.5 0.4%
Sept. 63.3 0.4%
Oct. 94.4 0.7%
Nov. 220.2 1.2%
Dec. 266.0 1.0%
Year
Total
$1,124.6 0.6%
Source: NPD Group, Inc.

Brick-and-mortar (including cataloguers) sales still dominate the apparel market, but strong fourth-quarter performance helped e-tailers make inroads. Online apparel sales represented close to 1 percent of total apparel sales for 1999.

“All indications tell us the positive trend in online apparel sales will continue,” said Mike Hand, president of NPD Apparel Sales. “The 1999 holiday season was a time of tremendous growth in online apparel shopping. Since then, even more consumers have accepted the Internet as a resource for apparel shopping, making it a sales channel to be reckoned with. We foresee 100 percent growth in online apparel sales this year and expect the market to top $2 billion.”

The growth of online apparel sales is being led by consumers in their mid-20s to mid-40s, NPD found. Shoppers in this age group are far more likely to purchase clothing over the Internet than younger or older individuals. To reach the core of the online apparel audience, apparel e-tailers will want to address the 35- to 44-year-old market. According to NPD, this group accounted for 41 percent of all dollar sales generated by online apparel in 1999. By comparison, they made 25 percent of total 1999 apparel expenditures across all channels. Consumers aged 25 to 34 accounted for 24 percent of online apparel sales, compared to 18 percent of total apparel sales in 1999.

The older consumers are, the less likely they are to purchase online, NPD found. Consumers over age 55 accounted for 11 percent of online apparel sales and 26 percent of total apparel sales. Consumers over age 65 were responsible for only 4 percent of online sales and 13 percent of total apparel sales in 1999. Consumers over 55 are far more likely to shop by catalog.

More affluent households — those earning more than $70,000 — are also disproportionately represented among online apparel buyers. They accounted for 61 percent of total dollars spent on apparel online, compared to 38 percent of total apparel spending for the year. The fastest-growing market segment is the $70,000 to $99,000 income bracket, which was responsible for 29 percent of online apparel spending for the year, peaking in the fourth quarter at 36 percent.

Despite the high sales numbers generated by this spending group, the Web drew apparel purchases from a wide range of income brackets in 1999. Consumers in the $25k to $49k income bracket had the largest share of online apparel in the third quarter, no doubt driven by back-to-school shopping.


1999 Online Apparel Purchaser Demographics
Annual 1999 Total
Apparel

($ Share)
Store
($ Share)
Catalog
($ Share)
Online
($ Share)
Total Apparel 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Buyer Age:
to 13 0.4 0.4 0.0 0.0
14-24 6.6 7.0 3.2 4.4
25-34 18.1 18.8 11.8 23.6
35-44 25.2 25.5 22.3 41.1
45-54 23.0 23.1 23.4 19.4
55-64 13.0 12.6 16.4 7.0
65+ 12.9 12.0 21.8 4.2
Household income:
to $24,999 18.1 17.7 21.4 6.6
$25-$49,999 27.0 27.0 26.8 20.1
$50-$69,999 17.5 17.7 15.1 12.2
$70-$99,999 18.4 18.7 15.9 29.2
$100,000+ 19.1 18.9 20.8 31.9
Source: NPD Group, Inc.

More E-Commerce Market Reports from NPD and Media Metrix:

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