Over the past decade, American consumer spending in the fashion industry has increased from $1600 per person annually to over $2000 per person annually. While not singular to the fashion industry, this upward trend is not matched in all consumer spending areas. In fact, this marked increase has occurred during a period when consumer purchases have fallen in the majority of major retail areas. This across-the-board spending decrease has hit physical department stores the worst. For example, in 2011, Macy’s reported an 18% decrease in customer purchases at registers in its mall locations. In contrast, it reported a 26% increase in online apparel purchases, indicating that the recent boom in the fashion industry may be attributed to an increase in online sales. In fact, further research indicates that more and more Americans are shopping online for clothes, for three key reasons: efficiency, cost, and a decreased level of anxiety.
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2015 Statistics for Shopping Online for Clothes
Consumers Rate Online Shopping as Increasingly Time Effective
While the last minute shopping rush is not abolished, the past several shopping seasons have seen a marked decrease in mall and retail shopping congestion. This can be measured by a fewer number of purchases logged at cash registers, a decrease in parking revenue at/near major retailers, and a decrease in food court consumption.
At the same time, online purchases have increased due to several significant changes, which have rendered the online shopping experience more efficient. More and more companies are offering the majority of their inventory on their websites. In 2004, only 65% of retails offered in excess of 90% of their products online. In 2014, that statistic had increased to 95%. In fact, many companies have retail selections that are ONLY available online, further encouraging the purchase of online merchandise.
Company websites are also making their websites more visually appealing and increasing the ease of access. For fashion/clothing websites, online consumers are now often encouraged to view the garments from several angles and zoom in for increased detail. Online shoppers may even rotate the garments on digital avatars and view different clothing combinations on one figure. All of these recent changes have increased the efficiency of shopping for clothes online and resulted in an increase of fashion purchases.
Online Purchases Save Consumers Money When Clothes Shopping
Mostly due to a low overhead, selling clothes online is more cost-effective for retailers who are then able to pass those savings on to the consumer. Retailers often offer discounts for online shopping, including but not limited to package (i.e. Buy 3, save $20) discount on fashion merchandise. In contrast to a decade earlier, the majority of retailers offer free shipping on purchases over a certain dollar amount. With certain retailers, such as Amazon.com, this discount is further extended with a subscription to some sort of loyalty program. The upshot is simple: the more shopping consumers do online and the more they are loyal to certain retailers, the more money they save. While not as prevalent in the fashion industry as some other industries (i.e. books, electronics), these incentive discounts for online purchasing and bulk purchasing are on the rise, saving both retailers and consumers more money. When related, additional costs, such as gasoline and dining out, are factored into the shopping experience, clothing consumers save even more money by shopping online for clothes.
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Consumers Report Decreased Anxiety when Shopping for Clothes Online
The shopping season is notorious for increased anxiety. For the fashion industry, this general stress is exacerbated the consumers’ general discomfort with purchasing and trying on clothes in public. Many fashion retailers have taken advantage of this societal norm by offering free returns (i.e. no restocking fee) for online purchases and even going as far as to include pre-paid return labels for the consumer to use if dissatisfied. This allows the fashion consumer to try on clothes in the comfort of his or her own home without the increased anxiety of visiting a fashion retail or outlet store. An increasing number of online retailers, such as L.L. Bean, offer 100% lifetime satisfaction guarantees on their products, no questions asked.
In conclusion, in an increasingly electronic world, the fashion industry is no exception. Increased efficiency, cost savings, and decreased stress are only three factors that contribute to the increased online apparel sales. This coming shopping season, expect to see fewer of your neighbors at the local mall and more parcel trucks pulling up down your street.
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