The survey, conducted by Forrester Research for Shop.org, polled 170 retailers and concluded that Americans last year spent $18.3 billion for apparel, accessories and footwear versus $17.2 billion for computer gear. The results indicate that shoppers' embrace of online apparel sites is just beginning, because just 10% of all clothing sales are expected to take place online.
About 41% of computer equipment sales occur online.
"Apparel retailers have overcome a number of hurdles to encourage shoppers to buy clothing and accessories online," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, a network of online retailers. "Retailers are doing such a great job online that in some cases it's easier to find and buy clothing on the web than it is in a store."
The survey indicates that online retailers have adapted to shoppers' fears and hesitations about using the Internet to buy apparel: free shipping on returns and exchanges, for instance. To appeal to online shoppers, the trend of retailers has been to improve graphics that enable buyers to examine potential purchases closely.
The Shop.org report also found that 83% of the retailing respondents said they were profitable and 78% said profits were up in 2006 over profits reported in 2005.
The report, which was authored by Forrester Research senior analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, predicted that the online apparel-accessories-footwear category would reach $22.1 billion in 2007.
Forrester said it expects total online sales (including travel) to hit $259 billion in 2007 for an 18% jump over 2006.
Trailing the clothing and computer gear categories, online sales of autos and auto parts came in at $16.7 billion followed by home furnishings' $10 billion, Forrester said.