Apparel is one of the most popular retail ecommerce product categories, and online sales are growing faster than offline.
A recent Morgan Stanley report predicted that Amazon will become the top US apparel retailer in 2018, after growing its market share by 1.5% last year. It's true that online retailers and off-price stores have hit the traditional channel for apparel—department stores—hard. Per Morgan Stanley, department stores will account for just 8% of the apparel market by 2022, down from 24% in 2006.
eMarketer projects that US retail ecommerce sales of apparel and accessories will increase 14.5% to reach $103.66 billion in 2018, making up 19.7% of total retail ecommerce sales. That makes it the largest single product category, responsible for $26.01 billion more in sales than the next category, consumer electronics. Apparel's digital growth will slow to 12.5% in 2022, when sales are expected to hit $170.52 billion. For comparison, overall US apparel sales shrunk 2% in 2017, per The NPD Group.
Sales may be growing more quickly online than offline, but since ecommerce only makes up around one-fifth of total US apparel sales, it’s not surprising that more consumers, on average, buy clothing at brick-and-mortar stores than on Amazon. Physical stores were the location where US internet users were most likely to complete a clothing purchase (32%), according to Cowen and Company. Amazon was favored by 28% of respondents, though, and was the preferred choice for those younger than 35. Amazon was also far more popular than a brand or retail site among respondents overall.
Walmart was the leading retailer—online or offline—that US internet users shopped for clothing or shoes in the past 12 months (41.8%), according to Coresight Research (formerly Fung Global Retail & Technology). However, an even greater number had bought apparel at a retailer other than the 18 featured in the study, demonstrating the vastness of fashion sources. Amazon and Target both captured over one-third of respondents. Amazon was most popular among shoppers with the highest household incomes, and Walmart with the lowest income groups, while Target's appeal was fairly consistent. Though there is a perception that Amazon shoppers are driven by low prices, that factor was ranked sixth (32.1%) as a reason why US internet users bought apparel on the site. Ease of use (65.4%) and cheap delivery (62.2%) were far more appealing.