The year 2006 marks a turning point in e-commerce in the United States. In 2006 more apparel was sold online in the US than computers in terms of value.

This is reported in the 14 May 2007 issue of the Washington Post (Online Sales Shift: Apparel Outpaced Computers in ’06). It states: “Consumers spent $18.3 billion on clothes, accessories and shoes in 2006, up 61% from the previous year. Computer hardware and software sales totalled US$17.2 billion, up 20% from the previous year. Total online retail spending, excluding travel, grew 25% to US$146.5 billion.” The source of this data is said to be Forester Research which surveyed 174 online retailers.

Sites listed in the report include shoe retailers – Piperlime by Gap, by Amazon, and
The report ends with the statement that: “Online apparel sales accounted for only 8% of total clothing sales last year. By contrast, 41% of computer sales were online, more than any other category. More than 10% of sales of office supplies, gift cards and baby products, among other categories, were online.”

The report brings developments full circle in a sense for the textiles and clothing industry. The 2006 e-commerce milestone for apparel sales online in the US can be connected to a historical background which stretches back to the early period of the Industrial Revolution. Back in 1801 the Frenchman, Joseph Marie Jacquard (pictured), invented a mechanical loom which used punched holes in cards to mechanise the weaving of specific textile designs. The machine played a role in inspiring the Englishman, Charles Babbage, inventor of the “difference engine”. For this Babbage is sometimes regarded as the father of computing. Even as late as the 1960s punch cards were used as a type of “software” to run computers.

Rapid developments on the Web give us the sense that history is speeding up. So Lightbulb asks this strategy question – Which major Australian fashion industry brand owners, manufacturers or retailers are responding to the opportunity and threat of the Web to their present and future cash flows? Call us if you want to discuss possibilities, recognising that we are lawyers and consultants specialising in Website and online media development, e-commerce, online marketing and structuring entrepreneurial enterprises.

Noric Dilanchian