For first time, apparel outsells computers online: Shop.org

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Americans spent more money online last year on clothing than they did on computers for the first time, according to a report by Forrester Research for Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation.

According to the 10th annual "State of Retailing Online 2007" report, the apparel, accessories and footwear categories totaled $18.3 billion in 2006. Spending is expected to reach $22.1 billion this year with an estimated 10 percent of all clothing sales to be done online.

"It's a big milestone for the industry," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, Washington, D.C. "When you think about retail, usually the first thing you think about is clothes. If you've achieved success in apparel, you've made it in retail."

The report, which surveyed 170 retailers, found that the apparel and accessories categories experienced strong sales because of the integration of new technologies into e-commerce sites, including rich imaging that allow customers to zoom and rotate items in different colors before buying.

Also contributing to the growth was an influx of new companies and liberal shipping policies, including free shipping on returns and exchanges.

Computer hardware and software came in third for online sales. Apparel now holds second place while the long-time leader remains online travel. In 2006, computer hardware saw $17.2 billion in sales; automobiles and auto parts $16.7 billion; and home furnishings $10 billion.

The report said 2007 online sales including travel are expected to rise 18 percent to $259.1 billion. Sales excluding travel will reach $174.5 billion.

Overall, online sales last year rose 25 percent to $219.9 billion. Excluding travel, online retail sales rose 29 percent to $146.5 billion, representing 6 percent of total retail sales in 2006.

The second part of the study, which examines tactics that online retailers found most successful and site features that resonated most with online consumers, will be released in September at Shop.org's annual summit.

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