Blog: Leonie BarrieOnline is in fashion

Leonie Barrie | 11 September 2009

Competition for online apparel and footwear customers seems to have reached fever-pitch in recent weeks.

First to shake up the market was internet retail giant Amazon.com with its US$850m shares and cash deal to acquire rival apparel and footwear site Zappos.com.

Then came plans by discount retailer Target Corp to build and manage its own online retail platform in time for the 2011 holiday season – in a move that will also mark the end its 10-year ecommerce deal with Amazon.

This was closely followed by athletic footwear retailer The Finish Line, which has set up a separate division to focus on its growing e-commerce channel.

And earlier this month, Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, unveiled plans to sell products from other retailers on its website as part of a new online mall called Walmart Marketplace. Among the 1m items that have been added to its new online store are apparel brands like Norma Kamali, Jordache, Signature by Levi Strauss and Riders, along with footwear lines from Aerosoles, Naturalizer and Dr Scholl's.

Then, earlier this week, Gap’s online-only shoe site Piperlime expanded its line-up with the addition of women's apparel. Labels including Marc by Marc Jacobs, 7 for all Mankind, Joie, J Brand, and Juicy Couture are among the 65 clothing brands on offer.

So what’s going on?

Piperlime says its site was launched because no other retailers were delivering “an inspiring and compelling shopping experience,” at the time; with its latest expansion a logical move as shoppers continue to spend money even during the downturn.

For Walmart the rationale behind its larger range is to give “our customer more reasons to choose Walmart.com when shopping online.”

Many retailers are using the internet to re- connect with their customers during the recession, with special online offers, free returns and even styling advice and fashion tips.

And maybe this resurgence in interest has something to do with the fact that online sales of apparel are outpacing their bricks-and-mortar rivals, as a look at most retailers’ monthly and quarterly results shows only too clearly.


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