The total online clothing and footwear market grew by 38% to £1.7 billion in 2007 up from £1.2bn in 2006, according to a report by Verdict Research.
A report entitled UK e-Retail 2008 surveyed 4,059 online shoppers and revealed that the online market accounted for 4.2% of all clothing and footwear spend in 2007.
The report said that online shopping was becoming an integral part of UK retail with total online retail spend worth £14.7bn in 2007, up 35% year on year, and a rate of growth almost 10 times higher than that experienced by the total UK retail market.
Last year's growth was driven by a 5.9% increase in internet users – to 33.1 million - and a 24.7% increase in online shoppers – to 22.6m.
Online shoppers are also purchasing more regularly (an average of 16.9 times per year, an increase of 2.7 trips on 2006) and each spent an average of 7.8% more than 2006.
Verdict Research predicts that with internet access growing and users purchasing more frequently online, this strong growth is set to continue, with online retail sales set to reach £44.9bn by 2012.
Malcolm Pinkerton, senior retail analyst at Verdict Research, said: "The internet is widely perceived as a cheaper and easier way of finding lower prices and bargains in most sector. As the cost of broadband falls, consumers become accustomed to internet shopping and retailers continue to enhance online propositions, the channel will find itself extremely well-placed to capitalise on the falling consumer confidence and lower levels of disposable income currently impacting the retail market."
Verdict's consumer research also revealed that a long standing AB demographic bias to the online shopper base persists, but there has been a substantial rise in the number of C2s and DEs as a result of the falling cost of broadband. The number of C2 shoppers has increased by 35.5% to 4.2m and the number of DE online shoppers has increased by 38.9% to reach 2.5m. This is in contrast to the 23.2% rise in the number of AB shoppers and the 19.3% rise in C1 shoppers, where growth is beginning to slow due to the user base maturing.
The report also said that while having an internet presence was vital for retailers, giving the consumer choice by establishing strong links between the in-store and online offer was also now essential. Pinkerton said the key was to ensure that synergies with online retailing were exploited to drive footfall to stores.
The convenience of shopping online is the main reason for its continuing success and this was mentioned by more than half of the 4,059 adults surveyed for Verdict's report.
Longer term, growth is set to be driven by the ageing population. As today's younger shoppers get older and their income and spending power increases, the amount they spend online is likely to increase. The internet will be seen as a normal way to buy goods, as this generation replaces one that is more predisposed to make purchases from physical shops. However, this does not necessarily signal a death knell for physical stores.
Pinkerton said: "In many cases online and in-store sales channels will simply blur into one, becoming fully integrated. There is still a need for physical locations, but the number of stores required will vary according to sector."
He added: "Having an internet presence is now vital and the combination of an in-store and online presence with strong links between the two is essential, giving the consumer choice by becoming multi channel is the key to success."
Drapers is hosting a conference dedicated to etailing called Maximising Revenue Through Online Fashion Retailing. Speakers include Asos chief executive Nick Robertson, Figleaves chief executive Julia Reynolds and Liberty director Guy Hipwell. There is also a special stream for independent retailers setting up online. The conference takes place on June 12 at The Radisson Mayfair in London. For more information or to register go to http://www.emapconferences.co.uk/drapersonline/