CONSUMER WATCH -- It surprised many experts and it may surprise you to know that clothing is at the top of the online sales list. It used to be the only way to find that perfect outfit was to go to the nearby department store or mall, search for your size, and then head to the dressing room. Not anymore. Online clothes purchases have soared in recent years and now surpass sales of computer hardware and software. In 2006 apparel and footwear sales reached more than $18 billion and are expected to exceed $22 billion this year. The study conducted by www.shop.org and Forrester Research surveyed 170 retailers and forecasts that one of out ten clothing sales in 2007 will happen online. And while more consumers are opting for the privacy of their own home to try on clothes, many aren't keeping what they click for. Fourteen percent of online clothing sales are sent back, nearly double other online purchases. Overall, Americans continue to spend more online for everything from shoes to airline tickets. Sales last year rose 25 percent and this year are expected to rise another 18 percent to $259 billion.
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