Everybody knows that apparel sales are mushrooming online. Yet many marketers might not be aware there’s a sharp shift in spending from online to brick and mortar that occurs from weekdays to weekends.

This story first appeared in the June 15, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

That was a key observation made by Michael McNamara, global solution leader for MasterCard Advisors, during his presentation on consumer spending patterns and opportunities for marketers online.

According to MasterCard’s Spending Pulse data, on Wednesday, June 8, over 23 percent of the nation’s apparel sales occurred online. But on Saturday, June 11, MasterCard predicted that about 7 percent of apparel sales would happen online. “So you really see the shift back toward brick and mortar,” McNamara stressed.

That change in purchasing from channel to channel is critical information for marketers developing strategy and tactics for winning over and selling consumers. They need to know how they can best devote their online advertising dollars to when consumers are likely to be buying online, and likewise for brick-and-mortar marketing, McNamara said.

Another metric for marketers to watch is gasoline prices. “When the national gas average goes above $3.25 a gallon, it tends to have an impact on consumer behavior. You start to see a shift to online from brick and mortar,” McNamara observed. “Consumers making fewer trips to retail locations is one reason we’re seeing growth online.”

In delivering the latest information on apparel spending and how much happens via the online channel, McNamara noted:

• Online apparel specialty sales in May grew 19 percent year over year, and amounted to over $2.6 billion.

• 16.6 percent of total apparel specialty sales occurred online in May. “Apparel sales have generally been holding up relatively well through May,” McNamara indicated.

• Total specialty apparel sales, online and at brick-and-mortar stores, grew 5.9 percent in May, with women’s apparel up 5 percent and family apparel up 3.7 percent.

• In 2007, 3.7 percent of total retail sales (excluding auto sales) occurred online. Last year, it was 4.5 percent.

• In 2007, 10.9 percent of apparel specialty sales were online. In 2010, it was 16.4 percent.

Asked which type of shopper is of greater value — those that shop online versus those that shop offline — McNamara replied that, from a retailer’s perspective, “the online customer is generally cheaper to acquire and you get a higher margin on the sale.”

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