Fashion is outperforming other online retailing sectors in the UK and has grown by 152% during the past five years, according to the latest research.

Last year 35% of UK shoppers bought clothing online, up from 26% the previous year, according to market research from Mintel.

Sales of onine fashion were worth GBP4.3bn (US$7bn), and are expected to reach GBP4.8bn by the end of 2011. By 2015, sales are expected to increase to reach GBP6.9bn, Mintel found.

Fashion is outperforming almost all other online sectors - including CDs and DVDs, books and travel.

“While the recession and stabilisation of the rise in internet penetration has impacted the online fashion market, sales of online fashion continue to grow," said Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at Mintel.

"The market received a boost as several high street fashion retailers enveloped their online channels at the end of 2010, with leading high street retailers launching websites and other online retailers entering the fashion market.”

Despite the popularity of online shopping, Mintel said the importance of bricks and mortar was also demonstrated by the fact that 53% of consumers prefer to return or exchange items in store that they have bought online. It also found that 36% prefer to order or reserve online and try on or buy from a store.

Mintel said the main barrier to shopping online was being able to "see and feel an item in person" before buying it.

It found that 51% of people are put off buying clothes online due to the hassle of returning goods through the post, while size inconsistency and security issues were also factors.

“Sales of online clothing and footwear are growing in 2011, but in order to continue driving sales retailers need to deal better with many of the barriers to online shopping that put people off making actual purchases," Sender added.

"In order to compete in the online retail sector, companies need to invest in the latest online technology, as well as ensuring that their websites are constantly updated and easy to navigate in order to overcome some of the fears associated with shopping online.”