High Street trio John Lewis, House of Fraser and Next are set to go head to head for a slice of the online branded fashion market this autumn.
John Lewis is to unveil a significantly expanded fashion offer on August 24, with several new premium labels due to be added to its website.
The product offer will increase across its women's, men's and kids' wear categories, with brands including Polo Ralph Lauren, French Connection, Great Plains and Nougat all new to the site, as well as a wider range of products from existing brands such as 7 For All Mankind.
So far, fashion has been a low priority for John Lewis online, with the majority of its 26,000 products coming from the home furnishings and electrical sectors. Most of its small existing fashion range is comprised of own-brand products.
John Lewis's commercial director Phil Hullah said: "We are keen to offer fashion to our existing online customers who have mainly had access to home and electrical products. There will be 3,000 fashion SKUs from the end of August covering men's, women's and kids' wear, up from about 1,000 SKUs. This will rise to 7,000 in the run-up to Christmas."
Hullah said he expected the new online fashion store to make a sizeable contribution to John Lewis's sales performance.
"Fashion is one of the fastest growing categories online so we hope to see significant sales," he said.
Sales at John Lewis Direct, the online and catalogue arm of the business, were up 64% to £185 million for the year to January 27.
Meanwhile, House of Fraser will launch its first transactional website next month. The site will primarily sell fashion and homewares at launch. It is understood the site will sell brands currently stocked in store as well as own-label product.
A spokeswoman declined to give details of the offer, but said it would operate as a "slice of store" online, with a strong fashion bias.
The department stores will join Next, which has also been negotiating with brands including Diesel and Replay for an autumn launch.
ONLINE CLOTHING SPEND
Online sales set to double to £2.93bn by 2010
Online market share
Mail order: 47.5%
Internet only: 33.3%
Department stores: 1%
Source: Mintel & TNS.