US Online Apparel Retailing (Men’s and Women’s) Market Report 2021
“Consumers were shopping for clothing online prior to COVID-19; however, the pandemic accelerated this behavior and adoption for many. The convenience and overall enjoyable experience will keep consumers shopping for…

US Online Apparel Retailing (Men’s and Women’s) Market Report 2021

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Report Summary

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the US Online Apparel Retailing (Men’s and Women’s) Consumer market including the behaviors, preferences, and habits of the consumer.

Nearly 40% of consumers enjoy shopping for clothes online. This means that shoppers will continue to turn to ecommerce options when looking for clothing, and even when they don’t have a specific need. Brands can look to connect with consumers across a variety of channels and entice them to shop through offering convenient and engaging shopping experiences.

COVID-19 continues to alter how and where consumers shop for clothing items – as well as what they shop for. Despite increasing comfort levels with browsing for clothes and accessories in-store, digital channels will remain critical in connecting with consumers and guiding them along their path to purchase. Omnichannel offerings and social commerce will be core components to the shopping experience as the pandemic continues, and well beyond the threat of COVID-19.

One of the biggest challenges for the market is providing clear product details and sizing information in an environment where consumers don’t always have the opportunity to try on items physically before purchase. Virtual fitting rooms, more focus and details on sizing/fit (size comparisons across brands), providing backup sizes, and trial periods will help shoppers feel more confident purchasing online.

Brands and retailers have an opportunity to leverage social commerce features to aid consumers shopping for clothing online. The increasing adoption of content such as shoppable posts or livestream shopping events across social platforms will continue to attract and engage consumers. Whether it’s a new product line/offering, launch of seasonal items or a major sales event – social commerce presents a myriad of ways to enhance and streamline the shopping experience, from discovery to purchase.

This report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Evolving eCommerce: Apparel Retailing – US, 2020 and How Online Shopping for Apparel is Evolving Online – US, 2018.

Read on to discover more about the US Online Apparel Retailing (Men’s and Women’s) consumer market, read our US The Luxury Consumer Market Report 2021, or take a look at our other Clothing, Footwear and Accessories research reports.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on online apparel retailing.
  • The desire and urgency for sustainable clothing purchase options.
  • Importance of the omnichannel experience to the online shopping marketplace.
  • Social media’s increasing role in inspiration and commerce.

Covered in this report

Brands include: Stich Fix, Snapchat, Fabletics, ThredUp, Poshmark, Adidas, Etsy, Depop, Lord & Taylor, Le Tote, Saadia Group LLC, Walmart, Zeekit, Reformation, Anthropologie, TikTok, Gap Home, QVC, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Balenciaga and Burberry, Twitch, NBA, Amazon, Target, T.J. Maxx, J. Crew, Monica + Andy.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

This report, written by Katie Hansen, a leading analyst in the Retail and eCommerce sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Consumers were shopping for clothing online prior to COVID-19; however, the pandemic accelerated this behavior and adoption for many. The convenience and overall enjoyable experience will keep consumers shopping for clothes online moving forward. Brands and retailers will need to emphasize their elevated experience which should include digital tools for virtual try on, sustainability initiatives, social commerce, and omnichannel capabilities to attract consumers and encourage them to shop.
Katie Hansen, Retail & eCommerce Analyst
Katie Hansen
Retail and eCommerce Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Key issues covered in this Report
        • Definition
          • Market context
            • Economic and other assumptions
              • COVID-19: US context
              • Executive Summary

                  • Top takeaways
                    • Market overview
                      • Figure 1: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of clothing, footwear and accessories, at current prices, 2016-26
                    • Impact of COVID-19 on online apparel retailing
                      • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on online apparel, 2021
                    • Opportunities and challenges
                      • Incorporate circular shopping options online
                        • Evolve purpose of physical footprint to cater to online shopping
                          • Leverage social media to spark inspiration and drive purchases
                          • The Market – Key Takeaways

                            • Slower growth in 2021, elevated levels remain compared to pre-pandemic
                              • Consumers get comfy with casual fashion
                                • Sustainability is a bigger priority for shoppers
                                • Market Size and Forecast

                                  • Shopping for clothing is a hybrid model
                                    • Figure 3: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of clothing, footwear and accessories, at current prices, 2016-26
                                    • Figure 4: Impact of COVID-19 on category sales, 2016-21
                                  • Impact of COVID-19 on online apparel retailing
                                  • Market Factors

                                    • Consumers are ready to spend but surging prices limit their options
                                      • Figure 5: Disposable Personal Income change from previous period, 2010-21
                                    • Comfort and style become synonymous
                                      • Figure 6: Stitch Fix back to life, 2021
                                    • Online apparel receives an assist from tech
                                      • Figure 7: Snapchat improving virtual try-on features, 2021
                                    • Tug-of-war amidst privacy and sharing
                                      • Circular shopping and sustainability are hot, hot, hot
                                        • Figure 8: Fabletics x ThredUp partnership, 2021
                                        • Figure 9: Adidas sustainability efforts, 2021
                                    • Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

                                      • Lord & Taylor emerges from the retail ashes as an online only option
                                        • Walmart eyes the future of fashion with virtual fitting rooms
                                          • Fashion, gaming catch fire
                                            • NFTs open (digital) doors of opportunity
                                            • Competitive Strategies

                                              • Etsy buys Depop as circular retail takes off
                                                • Figure 10: Etsy buys Depop, 2021
                                              • Lord & Taylor emerges as online-only retailer
                                                  • Figure 11: Lord & Taylor online only re-emergence, 2021
                                                • Walmart invests in ecommerce with virtual fitting room
                                                  • Figure 12: Walmart & Zeekit, 2021
                                                • Reformation launches traceable denim
                                                  • Figure 13: Reformation FibreTrace, 2021
                                              • Market Opportunities

                                                • Streamline the shopping process through social commerce
                                                  • Figure 14: Anthropologie Pinterest catalog, 2021
                                                • Leverage increasing popularity of livestream shopping events
                                                  • Figure 15: Walmart, Gap Home livestream event, 2021
                                                • Fashion_Brand joins the game
                                                  • Figure 16: Balenciaga Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, 2020
                                                • Explore the new frontier of digital ownership
                                                  • Figure 17: NBA Top Shot NFT, 2021
                                                  • Figure 18: RTFKT & Fewocious NFT collaboration, 2021
                                              • The Consumer – Key Takeaways

                                                • The in-store experience can still drive online shopping
                                                  • Convenience, enjoyment keep consumers shopping online
                                                    • Shoppers use social for inspiration and idea saving
                                                      • Consumers need more details to feel confident with purchase decisions
                                                        • Pique consideration and purchase through the browsing process
                                                        • Retailers Shopped

                                                          • Purchasing clothing is, overall, a blended experience
                                                            • Figure 19: Retailers shopped – Online and offline, 2021
                                                          • Amazon leads with value in online shopping
                                                            • Figure 20: Amazon and Walmart focus on fashion, 2021
                                                          • Discount retailers have work ahead of them to capture online audiences
                                                            • Figure 21: T.J.Maxx Find of the Week, 2021
                                                          • Offering convenience for both genders; emphasizing discovery for women
                                                            • Figure 22: Retailers shopped online, by gender, 2021
                                                          • Each generation affiliates with its own favorite retailer(s)
                                                            • Figure 23: Retailers shopped online, by generation, 2021
                                                          • Hispanic consumers gravitate toward familiar options
                                                            • Figure 24: Retailers shopped online, by Hispanic ethnicity, 2021
                                                        • Items Purchased and Item Recipients

                                                          • Consumers desire casual fashion
                                                            • Figure 25: Items purchased, 2021
                                                          • Generations’ trust in the online process influences what they purchase
                                                            • Figure 26: Items purchased, by generation, 2021
                                                          • Consumers shop for online for themselves, as well as for others
                                                            • Figure 27: Item recipients, by gender and age, 2021
                                                          • Parents focus on their children’s wardrobes
                                                            • Figure 28: J.Crew Factory highlights mini-me clothing options, 2021
                                                            • Figure 29: Target; Moncia & Andy connect with parents beyond the clothing, 2021
                                                            • Figure 30: Item recipients, by parental status and gender, 2021
                                                        • Motivations for Shopping for Clothing Online

                                                          • Consumers enjoy the online apparel journey
                                                            • Figure 31: Reasons for online purchase, 2021
                                                          • Offer female shoppers an experience and time to decide
                                                            • Figure 32: Reasons for online purchase, by gender, 2021
                                                          • Hispanic consumers use ecommerce as a budgetary tool
                                                            • Figure 33: Reasons for online purchase, by Hispanic ethnicity, 2021
                                                          • Factors driving online shopping vary by generation
                                                            • Figure 34: Reasons for online purchase, by generation, 2021
                                                        • The Role of Social Media

                                                          • Using social media for inspiration, lucrative rewards
                                                            • Figure 35: Actions on social media, 2021
                                                          • Incorporating social as a valuable shopping tool
                                                            • Figure 36: Madewell promotes new product line via instagram, 2021
                                                            • Figure 37: Frequent actions on social media, by generation, 2021
                                                          • Consumers use social as their digital sticky notes
                                                            • Figure 38: Social media behaviors, 2021
                                                          • Partnering with parents, kids to deliver a better experience
                                                            • Figure 39: Social media behaviors, by parental status, 2021
                                                        • Behaviors Online

                                                          • Providing a baseline for sizing between brands
                                                            • Figure 40: Behaviors when shopping for clothing online – Shopping approach, 2021
                                                          • Evolve return policies and processes to align with consumers’ shopping behaviors
                                                            • Figure 41: Behaviors when shopping for clothing online – Returns, 2021
                                                          • Tools and services can elevate online shopping experience
                                                            • Figure 42: Behaviors when shopping for clothing online – Tools and features, 2021
                                                            • Figure 43: AE x Snapchat partnership, 2021
                                                          • Potential to drive online behaviors in the future
                                                              • Figure 44: Actions done or considered when apparel shopping online, 2021
                                                            • Using digital tools to connect with each generation
                                                              • Figure 45: Actions done or considered when apparel shopping online, by generation, 2021
                                                          • Shopping Influences and Product Discovery

                                                            • Bringing the in-person experience home
                                                              • Figure 46: Nike’s SNKRS app exclusively for new releases, 2021
                                                              • Figure 47: Influential factors, 2021
                                                            • Connecting with Millennials over convenience; serving savings to Gen Z
                                                              • Figure 48: Influential factors, by generation, 2021
                                                              • Figure 49: Olive offers cardboard-free deliveries via sustainable shipper, 2021
                                                            • Creating connections, communities for multicultural consumers
                                                              • Figure 50: Influential factors, by race and Hispanic ethnicity, 2021
                                                            • Trust, ads, and social all included in discovery process
                                                              • Figure 51: Avenues of discovery, by gender, 2021
                                                          • Attitudes toward Shopping for Apparel Online

                                                            • Consumers browse freely, utilize the store, seek out brand communities
                                                              • Figure 52: Attitudes about apparel online, by gender, 2021
                                                              • Figure 53: Hatch events, 2021
                                                            • Elevating Gen Z’s expectations; being a partner for parents
                                                              • Figure 54: Attitudes about apparel online, by generation, 2021
                                                            • Providing more consistency with details, omni-options
                                                              • Figure 55: Attitudes toward buying apparel online, 2021
                                                            • Putting Gen Z in the driver’s seat
                                                              • Figure 56: Attitudes toward buying apparel online, by generation, 2021
                                                          • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                            • Data sources
                                                              • Forecast
                                                                • Consumer survey data
                                                                  • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                    • Abbreviations
                                                                      • Terms
                                                                      • Appendix – The Market

                                                                          • Figure 57: Total US retail sales and forecast of online apparel, footwear, and accessories at current prices, 2016-26
                                                                      • Appendix – The Consumer

                                                                          • Figure 58: Item recipients, by race/ethnicity, 2021

                                                                      About the report

                                                                      This market report provides in-depth analysis and insight supported by a range of data. At the same time, introductory and top-level content is provided to give you an overview of the issues covered.


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                                                                      Mintel provides overviews of the top brands and manufacturers, and uses consumer research to explore attitudes and reactions to brands, as well as insight into what will resonate with consumers.


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