Apparel Sites Become Better e-tailors

May 09, 2002

Apparel remains the second-biggest e-tail category, behind computers and software, reports Online apparel sales, which include footwear and jewelry, are expected to rise to $14 billion by 2006, up from $6.4 billion today, according to Jupiter Media Metrix.

Improved technology is helping to ensure better fits for products bought without being tried on. Web sites such as and have added interactive tools such as virtual models to view different styles and colors. In addition to visual imaging and customized sizing charts, there’s also information about fit and fabrics.

The more information customers have, the less likely they are to return merchandise, says Elaine Rubin, chairman of, the National Retail Federation’s online leg. About 16 percent of online buyers returned items in 2000, says Ms. Rubin who expects 2001 statistics to show a lower return rate.

“Consumers have sorted a lot of that out by buying from retailers whose attributes work well on the Web,” says Ken Cassar, an analyst with Jupiter Media Metrix. “They buy from single-brand sellers because they offer consistency of size.”

Moderator Comment: How will online B2C operations
affect retailers’ physical store and catalog operations?

Many have doubted the viability of apparel sales online.
Both Sears and Bloomingdale’s have decided to forego selling clothes on their
websites. Others, however, are beginning to generate significant revenues through
e-commerce sites.

Anecdotally speaking, one New Jersey family has shopped
regularly at The Gap and Old Navy for a number of years. For the past two years,
they have only purchased clothes from the clothing retailers online. The only
reason they ever step foot in a store is to make a return. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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