The UK’s clothing market is saturated with retailers that sell across various channels. In 2018, Next.co.uk was the UK’s top online store, with net annual sales of roughly 1.2 billion British pounds generated online in 2018. In fact, the competition is fierce for UK online and multichannel retailers, with familiar brands and new players bursting onto the scene. Among these, relative newcomers such as Bonmarché and Joules achieved the biggest growth in their like-for-like sales, while more established retailers like Debenhams, John Lewis, Next plc, and Marks and Spencer maintained steady but low rates.
Today, shopping journeys tend to start on search engines with prospective shoppers looking up keywords for the desired apparel items online. In 2018, the most searched for fashion-related keyword by UK consumers was "dresses", which were typed up more than 1.5 million times on Google’s UK platform. When it comes to men’s fashion, the most popular website was Zara Man, which was searched online nearly 50 thousand times in the UK in 2018.
Purchasing clothing and sports goods online is more widespread among women in the UK, although the share of men is not to be overlooked either. One thing that could be said of UK consumers regardless of gender is that given the wide variety of fashion retailers that sell online, they are spoiled for choice. According to the results of a survey conducted among UK shoppers, while Amazon ranked as the leading platform for purchasing clothing items, homegrown brands such as Marks and Spencer, ASOS, and Debenhams were also among consumers’ go-to retailers. Another survey conducted by Royal Mail indicated that most UK consumers shopped for fashion 2 or 3 times in a three-month period.
It is fair to say that online shopping is not as separated from physical retail as previously thought. There are more and more retailers that attract online shoppers into the store via click-and-collect schemes or buy-online-return-in-store options. “Try before you buy” is one such recent development that brings together online and brick-and-mortar retail, one that is catching up with UK consumers, especially when it comes to fashion items. When asked about their opinions on the service, 61 percent of female consumers in the UK said they would buy clothing items online using this program. For footwear, this option was favored by 45 percent of women and 36 percent of men.