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Amazon and Target are in a war over apparel

  • Coresight Research found that shoppers who bought clothing and/or footwear on Amazon.com were most likely to have previously purchased those types of items from Target.
  • There was more overlap between the two than Amazon and Walmart, when looking at apparel.
  • Target apparel shoppers are more likely, on average, to have an Amazon Prime membership than those people who buy clothes from other major U.S. retailers.
Apparel on display at the new Target store in Herald Square.
Courtney Reagan | CNBC
Apparel on display at the new Target store in Herald Square.

It might come as a surprise, but Amazon and Target are in one of the biggest battles in apparel retail today, according to a new report from Coresight Research.

In surveying more than 1,500 internet users over the age of 18, the group (formerly Fung Global Retail & Technology) found that shoppers who bought clothing and/or footwear on Amazon.com were most likely to have previously purchased those types of items from Target. There was more overlap between the two than Amazon and Walmart, when looking at apparel.

Furthermore, Target apparel shoppers are more likely, on average, to have an Amazon Prime membership than those people who buy clothes from other major U.S. retailers, according to Coresight. The group's survey also found that "having a Prime membership" drives apparel shopping on Amazon.com.

Amazon and Target have both been investing in their apparel businesses of late, particularly creating more private-label brands.

Amazon has names like Lark & Ro, Goodthreads and Rebel Canyon, while Target continues to build out a suite of clothing brands such as Universal Thread, JoyLab and A New Day. Both have a focus on women's, denim and athletic apparel.

"Less surprisingly, perhaps, department stores have also lost apparel spending to Amazon," analyst Deborah Weinswig said. "This finding is certainly in line with the dwindling sales that some of them have reported in recent years. Macy's and JCPenney rank disproportionately high in terms of how many apparel shoppers they have lost in part or in full to Amazon Fashion."

Many industry experts still agree that Amazon has a long way to go before its website becomes a fashion destination, though. To date, it has been most successful in selling basic items such as white T-shirts or underwear.

A separate report by One Click Retail found that sales in 2017 of apparel and shoes on Amazon.com exceeded $8 billion from first- and third-party sellers. But penetration in premium and luxury fashion was still noticeably low.

"Buying clothes is a browsing activity," One Click Retail's Nathan Rigby said. "Most clothes-shopping takes places in stores where consumers can browse through a selection of items looking for something that catches their eye and then — and this is important — can try it on before they buy it. Amazon's sales figures reflect these habits, with sales primarily focused on basic, affordable commodities."

Read the full report from Coresight Research.