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Online Apparel Sales Jump

retailersRising ecommerce clothing sales spell opportunity for entrepreneurs.

By Rieva Lesonsky

More and more Americans are buying their clothing online. As reported in Retail Dive, the most recent Internet Retailer Online Apparel Report shows more than one quarter (27.4%) of overall U.S. apparel sales in 2017 took place online, up from 23.5% in 2016 and 20.7% in 2015.

Apparel retailers dominated Internet Retailer’s 2018 Top 1000 list (claiming 266 spots on the list—more than any other category, not even counting Amazon or Walmart), Retail Dive points out. This is good news for both existing and aspiring small retailers. If you own a retail store, you also need to sell your merchandise online (make sure your site is mobile-friendly). For those who want to be retailers, consider starting online. It’s less expensive than a brick-and-mortar store and obviously an increasingly popular shopping destination.

Stats from a survey by PWC back this up, showing that while 43% of respondents prefer to shop for clothes in-store, 27% prefer to shop online-only and 30% like to shop both. What entices consumers to shop online? PWC reports “Americans value convenience above all else,” with 58% of respondents citing convenience as the reason they shop for clothing online, while 32% say it’s price.

The survey respondents also said “innovative delivery options” are important to them. For small businesses, the most affordable of those are free shipping and curb-side pickup (if you have a physical store).

You also need to make returns easy. Research from Narvar (reported in Retail Dive) shows 48% of consumers have returned an online purchase in the past year, and 49% check a retailer’s return policy before making an online purchase. Indeed, the research shows, “Shoppers buy multiple items with the intent to return some of them (especially when it comes to apparel and home goods).”

One key to understanding these consumers, PWC says: “Online shoppers continually make tradeoffs between convenience, speed, price and variety.” Offer the right combination of all four, and you’ll be dressed for success.

Online shopping stock photo by Martchan/Shutterstock