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Subscription services are ripe for growth in the fashion industry, but they're also already drawing impressive sales, The NPD Group has found.
While only 15 percent of consumers surveyed by the firm said they have ordered apparel subscription boxes, 14 percent of shoppers who have not ordered them said they plan to. With services such as Trunk Club, Le Tote and Stitch Fix, shoppers receive a personalized assortment of clothing, and then they keep and buy what they like, and send the rest back.
Notably, 35 percent of those surveyed didn't even know what these services are, NPD Group found, leaving much room for expansion and increased reach.
"We have entered a new world of retail where the traditional leaders are faced with unconventional channel competition, and subscription services are the newest player," Marshal Cohen, an analyst with NPD Group, said in a statement.
But at least one of these players is already making headway in the apparel category. Last year, both Amazon.com and digital subscription service Stitch Fix were among the top 10 retailers selling apparel online, according to NPD Group, which used a receipt mining service to track companies' sales.
"Consumers are more critical about the purchases they make today and no longer purchase just for the sake of purchasing. The personalized approach of subscription services complements the shift toward more prioritized spending," Cohen said.
Stitch Fix has recently expanded its services to men's apparel and has confidentially filed to go public, seeking a valuation of $3 billion to $4 billion in the offering, according to reports.
Meantime, Amazon is planning to roll out an apparel subscription service of its own, called Prime Wardrobe. If the new service takes off, traditional retailers could be left scrambling, Evercore ISI analyst Omar Saad wrote in an email to clients when it was announced.
"Already, stores of all stripes are struggling mightily to figure out the right combination of online and store to serve the needs of shoppers," Saad said. "Amazon is not afraid to experiment and has been working hard to find the right fit in fashion."
In the first 23 weeks of the year, Amazon.com apparel sales amounted to $1.45 billion, a 15 percent increase from 2016, One Click Retail found.
"Amazon still struggles in the luxury brands category since many refuse to sell on Amazon due to the platform's lax knock-off policies," One Click Retail's Nathan Rigby said. "Despite this, our data shows that the company is having great success with necessities and everyday items such as jeans, socks, underwear and men's work clothes. ... Amazon has serious designs on capturing the fashion and apparel market."
Just last week, Amazon launched a fresh private-label fashion brand for shoes, purses and accessories, called "The Fix."
NPD has forecast the fashion industry will increasingly be disrupted by way of digital innovators.
"There is a great deal of room to grow within the subscription model, and the competitive field will continue to expand as online retailers develop subscription services and options for auto-replenishment of fashion basics," Cohen said.
"This kind of innovation, delivering personalization and convenience, will continue to change the face of retail for fashion."