‘Recession is forcing retailers to be more pro-active’ – Cotton Inc

September 03, 2009 - United States Of America

In today’s tough economy, more consumers than ever are turning to the internet to find fashionable cotton apparel on increasingly tight household budgets.

Almost three-quarters (73%) of women have browsed the internet for clothes, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle MonitorTM survey. Nearly 20% of women regularly buy some of their apparel online, while 5% buy most of their clothes from web retailers – about a quarter more than a year ago.

“Women are considering their purchases very carefully these days, and that thought process starts before they even begin shopping online,” says Melissa Bastos, Manager of Market Research, Cotton Incorporated. “But retailers have stepped up their online marketing campaigns, with discounts and other incentives to encourage skittish shoppers to complete their purchases.”

Some e-retailers, like Bluefly.com, rely on daily promotions to reach out to their customer base; others, like Roxy, offer incentives like free shipping. Banana Republic and J. Crew, on the other hand, have both devoted special sections of their website to pieces under $100.

On average, women spend 110 minutes per month browsing the internet for apparel, according to the Monitor survey, up from about 86 minutes per month back in 2000. Eager to capitalize on this, retailers have amped up their sale offerings, emphasizing versatile, seasonless pieces, like Banana Republic’s slim cotton trench, or the classic little black dress in updated cotton by Converse, offered at Target.

Younger women are most likely to click and browse: those age 13-to-34 (78%) and 25-to34 (81%) are significantly more likely than women 35-to-55 (71%) and 56-to-70 (65%) to e-shop, according to Monitor data.

Other tools, too, are emerging to keep the shopper engaged. From Quiksilver to Brooks Brothers, and from Levi’s to Saks Fifth Avenue, brands are increasing their online presence, and interacting with consumers on social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to ramp up their brand awareness.

“This recession is forcing retailers to be more pro-active, and to think outside the box in terms of coming up with creative new ways to reach their consumers, and that may well be something we continue to see even after the economy has improved,” adds Bastos.