April 15, 2011, 4:47 PM

U.K. online apparel sales to grow 60% by 2015

More than a third of U.K. consumers bought apparel online in 2010.

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U.K. consumers looking to buy apparel increasingly are trading bricks-and-mortar shops for online stores, according to a new report from Mintel.

The market research firm says more than a third of U.K. consumers, 34%, shopped online for clothes in 2010, up from 25% in 2009. The company attributes the marked uptick in online apparel shopping last year to several well-known U.K. retail chains launching or improving their web sites and to consumers’ increased access to the web.

U.K. consumers spent 4.3 billion pounds ($7.01 billion) online buying apparel in 2010. Mintel projects sales will reach 4.8 billion pounds ($7.83 billion) by the end of 2011, an 11.6% increase, and 6.9 billion pounds ($11.25 billion) by 2015, a 60.5% increase over the 2010 spending level and a 9.9% compound annual growth rate for 2010-2015.

Despite the anticipated growth, challenges remain for online apparel sales, says Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at Mintel. “To continue driving sales, retailers need to deal better with many of the barriers to online shopping that put people off making actual purchases,” she says.

Those barriers include the inability to see and feel a product before buying, and the hassle of returning goods through the mail. 53% of U.K. consumers prefer to return or exchange an apparel item they bought online at a bricks-and-mortar store, Mintel says. 30% of consumers say inconsistent sizing makes them unsure of what size to order.

Sender says e-retailers must invest in tools that will help allay these concerns. “Companies need to invest in the latest online technology and ensure that their web sites are constantly updated and easy to navigate to overcome some of these fears,” she says.

Sender suggests e-retailers consider building mobile-optimized web sites and enhance them with mobile apps that help consumers find and exchange information with the merchants. She also suggests e-retailers develop their presence on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. 

A detailed look at the leading online retailers in the U.K. and other European countries is available in the recently published Internet Retailer Top 300 Europe Guide.

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