Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — U.S. cybershoppers shelled out $182 million for apparel online in January, making it the fourth most popular e-commerce category for the month, according to a report issued Wednesday by the National Retail Federation and Forrester Research.
Overall, American consumers spent $2.8 billion shopping the Web in January, NRF and Forrester, a Cambridge, Mass.-based Internet consultant, said in releasing their first batch of monthly e-commerce sales data. They are scheduled to release these reports around the 15th of each month.
“We were estimating that $2.6 billion would be spent for apparel online this year, and the January sales report indicates that projection was low,” noted Seema Williams, senior online retail analyst at Forrester.
Williams pointed out that even if consumers hold their Internet spending for apparel to January levels — not typically a period of robust spending on fashion — the category’s sales would hit $2.2 billion this year. Apparel snagged 6.6 percent of the dollars spent by U.S. e-shoppers in January, the report said. Williams noted the category’s growth rate is “smack in the middle” of 23 categories surveyed, but did not specify its rank.
“Apparel is one of those categories that will do as well online as it does in catalogs for the near term,” Williams projected. “Apparel [e-commerce] sites haven’t yet added the information necessary to offer a context that is different from catalogs, and the shopping tools are OK, but they are not that far along yet.”
By comparison, Williams said, sales of sporting goods, footwear and toys and video games are growing at a faster clip. Two of those categories, however, have smaller volumes against which to measure the increases. According to the new monthly data, U.S. consumers spent $52.9 million online for sporting goods in January; $42.2 million online for footwear, and $146 million online for toys and video games.
The hottest cyber-categories in January continued to be media-related merchandise, as purchases of books, music, videos and software tallied $653.6 million, or 26 percent of the month’s spending online.
That was followed by $583 million in travel services purchased through the Internet, or 21 percent of the month’s e-spending, including airfares, hotel reservations and car rentals. Placing third was computer hardware, with spending in the category coming to $224 million, or 8 percent of the month’s purchases on the Web.
In a statement, David Cooperstein, director of online research at Forrester, said, “Shopping online is here to stay, as evidenced by the fact that in January, consumers online spent more than half of what was spent online during the holiday season.”

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