Make shopping easy, and make it fun.
Allison Enright , Editor
Today's online retailers of apparel and accessories are in an enviable position. While less than 11% of all U.S. apparel and accessories retail sales occur online, online sales in these categories are bounding ahead. Online sales for the largest apparel and accessories retailers grew 22.9% year over year in 2012, well above the 15.9% average across all categories, and the apparel and accessories growth excludes the growth from mass merchants and sporting goods retailers, which also often sell apparel and accessories as part of their merchandise mix.
With lots of growth potential, today's apparel and accessories retailers are hard at work adding tools, features and technologies to their web sites to make online shopping appealing to consumers. There are a lot of online merchants in the category—236 are ranked in Internet Retailer's 2013 Top 500 and Second 500 Guides, which together rank the 1,000 largest online retailers in North America by web sales. That's the most of any product category.
The same holds true for this year's Hot 100 list: 28 online retailers of apparel and accessories are profiled in the following pages. From Bucketfeet Inc., which sells artist-designed footwear and is less than two years old, to venerable French luxury brand Louis Vuitton, the online merchants of apparel and accessories in this year's Hot 100 are focused on making online shopping easy and fun. At Gucci.com, for example, consumers can learn virtually everything about a product in two clicks and never leave the main page—that's easy. At UnionMadeGoods.com, each product page includes the exact sleeve, back and shoulder measurements for each size—that makes it easy to pick the right size.
For a less traditional shopping experience, consumers can head to Betabrand.com and have a say in what they want the merchant to sell. Betabrand this summer started offering a line of crowd-funded products in which consumers pledge cash to get production rolling. In exchange, they get a discount on the product and receive it before anybody else. At shoe seller Merrell.com, shoppers are encouraged to join The Pack, Merrell's social club for outdoor enthusiasts that organizes gatherings in the offline world. That's fun.
Content produced on or through social networks is an increasingly common element on online apparel and accessories sites. E-retailers are, smartly, letting their fashion-focused customers help them sell. Hot 100 pick Urban Outfitters Inc.'s site has a live stream of photos posted online by consumers decked out in its apparel. More than 1 million consumers have contributed, the e-retailer says. Meanwhile, patriotic apparel seller RangerUp.com and kidswear apparel seller Lolly Wolly Doodle Inc. let feedback collected through social media direct what they produce. It's the modern way retailers are getting to get to know what their customers want.
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