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Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Evolving eCommerce: Apparel Retailing: Incl Impact of COVID-19 – US market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

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Consumers were already becoming more comfortable with shopping for clothes online, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further shifted consumer behaviors and attitudes in this direction. Some will consider online shopping the preferred way to shop, viewing it as a cleaner and safer option. While this will benefit ecommerce sales, the overall apparel category will face challenges due to limited and prioritized spending and fewer reasons to buy clothes. To keep consumers engaged moving forward, online retailers must ensure a frictionless and enjoyable shopping experience across the entire consumer journey – including the product search and discovery process, customer service, checkout, and post-purchase needs

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Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Alexis Desalva, a leading analyst in the Retail & Apparel sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Online apparel sales have grown as consumers become more comfortable with the process of buying without first seeing in-person. COVID-19 has accelerated this behavior, as many consumers have shifted to shopping online. At the same time, the pandemic has resulted in limited and prioritized spending and fewer reasons to buy clothes – creating challenges for the industry. Alexis Desalva
Retail & Apparel Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Key issues covered in this Report
        • Definition
        • Executive Summary

            • Top takeaways 
              • Market overview 
                • Figure 1: Total US ecommerce sales of apparel, footwear, and accessories, at current prices, 2015-25
              • Impact of COVID-19 on online apparel retailing
                • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on online apparel, July 2020
              • Opportunities and Challenges
                • Improving information and providing post-purchase flexibility reduces hesitation
                  • Fewer occasions and decreased spending lead to cut back on clothes spending
                    • Experience-driven online shopping will drive category engagement
                      • Online players aren’t immune from hardships
                        • Connecting with consumers through shared values
                        • The Market – What You Need to Know

                          • Sales will shift online, but apparel spending will be de-prioritized
                            • COVID-19 has shifted consumers’ attitudes in favor of online
                              • Online shoppers are multi-generational
                              • Market Size and Forecast

                                • The aftermath of COVID-19 will negatively impact apparel sales, but puts eCommerce at an advantage
                                  • Figure 3: Total US ecommerce sales of apparel, footwear, and accessories, 2015-25
                              • Market Perspective

                                • Times are changing, and so are consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward shopping online
                                  • Figure 4: The evolution of online apparel shopping
                              • Market Factors

                                • High unemployment and low confidence means restricted spending
                                  • Figure 5: Unemployment and consumer confidence rates, January-June 2020
                                • Post-pandemic online clothes shoppers are multi-generational
                                  • Figure 6: Average online shopping frequency – NET, by Generation – May 2020
                                • Conscious consumerism will influence where shoppers buy clothes, especially in an election year
                                  • Figure 7: Revolve apology to customers, June 2020
                              • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                                • Content meets commerce
                                  • Rewinding the appeal of rentals
                                    • Amazon is on its way to dominate online apparel sales
                                    • What’s Working

                                      • Mass merchandisers find new ways to appeal to value-driven consumers
                                        • Figure 8: Target designer dress collection, May 2020
                                      • Social shopping
                                        • Figure 9: Instagram checkout enhancements, July 2020
                                    • What’s Struggling

                                      • COVID-19 throws a wrench in clothing rentals
                                        • Figure 10: Rent the Runway post to customers, June 2020
                                    • What to Watch

                                      • Amazon has the potential to dominate the online apparel market
                                        • Figure 11: Common Threads: Vogue x Amazon Fashion, July 2020
                                      • Retailers focus on quality over quantity to appeal to environmentally focused young shoppers
                                      • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                        • Shifting sentiments indicate optimism for online retailers
                                          • Casual, less risky purchases are most popular
                                            • Online shopping provides savings and entertainment
                                              • A strong digital presence drives sales
                                                • Quality concerns remain a hurdle
                                                • Changed Online Shopping Behavior because of COVID-19

                                                  • COVID-19 transforms consumers into conservative, conscious clothes shoppers
                                                    • Figure 12: Changed behaviors in light of COVID-19, May 2020
                                                  • Younger generations are increasingly considerate of their surroundings
                                                    • Figure 13: Changed online shopping behavior, by generation – May 2020
                                                  • Health-conscious parents will see more value shopping online
                                                    • Figure 14: Changed online shopping behavior, by parental status – May 2020
                                                • Attitudes towards Buying Clothes Online

                                                  • Impact of COVID-19 on consumers’ attitudes toward shopping for clothes online
                                                    • Shifting attitudes
                                                      • A focus on clean-shopping will drive shoppers online
                                                        • Figure 15: Attitudes toward buying clothes online, May 2020
                                                      • Online shopping is more than a transaction, it’s an experience
                                                        • Figure 16: Attitudes towards buying clothes online, May 2020
                                                        • Figure 17: Tibi customer email featuring Instagram Live styles, August 2020
                                                    • Items Purchased and Item Recipients

                                                      • Consumers seek low-risk, casual apparel online
                                                        • Figure 18: Items purchased – May 2020
                                                      • Parents appreciate convenience of making family purchases online
                                                        • Figure 19: Item recipients – NET, by parental and marital status, May 2020
                                                      • COVID-19 could introduce older consumers to online apparel shopping
                                                        • Figure 20: Items purchased – by age, May 2020
                                                      • Multicultural consumers’ self-shopping is motivated by savings and entertainment
                                                        • Figure 21: Item recipients and reasons for buying clothes online versus in-store, by race and Hispanic origin – May 2020
                                                    • Retailers Shopped

                                                      • COVID-19 impacts where and how consumers shop for clothes
                                                        • Figure 22: Retailers shopped online, May 2020
                                                      • At an advantage: (Nearly everyone shops at) Amazon
                                                        • Figure 23: Retailers shopped, May 2020
                                                        • Figure 24: Retailers shopped by items purchased, May 2020
                                                      • At a disadvantage: (certain) circular and luxury retailers
                                                        • Figure 25: Retailers shopped, by gender – May 2020
                                                      • At an advantage: mass merchandisers
                                                        • Figure 26: Retailers shopped – Target and Walmart, by select demographics – May 2020
                                                    • Reasons for Buying Clothes Online

                                                      • Online clothes shopping: equal parts strategy and enjoyment
                                                        • Figure 27: Reasons for buying clothes online – May 2020
                                                      • Parents want to avoid stores
                                                        • Figure 28: Reasons for buying clothes online, by parental status – May 2020
                                                      • Value motivates younger shoppers to buy clothes online
                                                        • Figure 29: Reasons for buying clothes online, by generation – May 2020
                                                      • Black clothes shoppers are savvy
                                                        • Figure 30: Reasons for buying clothes online, by race and Hispanic origin – May 2020
                                                    • Pre-purchase Process

                                                      • Value assurance motivates pre-purchase research
                                                        • Figure 31: Pre-purchase process – NET, any do, May 2020
                                                      • COVID-19 will directly impact the pre-purchase process
                                                        • Figure 32: Pre-purchase process, May 2020
                                                      • Younger generations are mission-driven shoppers
                                                        • Figure 33: Pre-purchase process – NET, any do, by generation, May 2020
                                                    • Online Shopping Behavior

                                                      • Young women like the experience of shopping online
                                                        • Figure 34: Online shopping behavior, by gender and age – May 2020
                                                      • Use of digital tools is multi-generational
                                                        • Figure 35: Online shopping behavior, by generation – May 2020
                                                    • Digital Engagement

                                                      • Ads and apps reach most consumers
                                                        • Figure 36: Digital engagement- NET, May 2020
                                                      • Social content drives online shopping for most shoppers, especially women
                                                        • Figure 37: Digital engagement, by gender and age – Have done, May 2020
                                                        • Figure 38: Rent the Runway communication to customers, June 2020
                                                      • Hispanic shoppers turn to social media throughout the P2P
                                                        • Figure 39: Digital engagements – NET, by race and Hispanic origin, May 2020
                                                        • Figure 40: Spiritú, Instagram post, August 2020
                                                    • Barriers to Buying

                                                      • Product accuracy and inconsistency remain the top barriers
                                                        • Figure 41: Barriers to buying clothes online, May 2020
                                                      • Inconvenience is another issue, for shoppers of all ages
                                                        • Figure 42: Barriers to buying – by generation, May 2020
                                                      • Women encounter more product inaccuracies
                                                        • Figure 43: Barriers to buying – by gender, May 2020
                                                    • Desired Improvements

                                                      • Consumers want more convenience
                                                        • Figure 44: Desired improvements – NET, May 2020
                                                      • Parents seek customized convenience
                                                        • Figure 45: Kohl’s Back-to-School Campaign, August 2020
                                                        • Figure 46: Desired improvements – by parental status, May 2020
                                                      • Sustainability is a purchase priority for younger generations
                                                        • Figure 47: Desired improvements –NET – by generation, May 2020
                                                        • Figure 48: Athleta showcases commitment to sustainability, Instagram, July 2020
                                                    • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                      • Data sources
                                                        • Sales data
                                                          • Fan chart forecast
                                                            • Consumer survey data
                                                              • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                • Abbreviations
                                                                • Appendix – The Market

                                                                    • Figure 49: Total US ecommerce sales of apparel, footwear, and accessories, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2015-25

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