Online sales of apparel and shoes in the UK have soared through the GBP1bn (US$1.97bn) mark for the first time, according to research by market analyst Mintel.

The report said the amount spent on fashion online has leapt by a massive 461% during the past five years.

This has been driven by increased internet access plus a growing number of online fashion stores.

An increasing number of retailers are also putting full ranges of fashion online, Mintel said, adding that the entrance of Tesco and New Look into the sector are expected to help grow sales even further.

Mintel forecasts that internet sales of apparel and shoes will jump by an additional 138% by 2011.

However, online retailing is still just a small part of the fashion market as a whole, representing 3% of the sector last year.

Consumers in the 15- to 24-year-old age range are most likely to spend money online, Mintel concluded after a survey of 2022 people, with 19% of that segment doing so last year.