BEIJING: Apparel brands stand to gain significant traction if they are able to find ways of tapping the "skyrocketing" online sales being generated in China, a report has suggested.

Euromonitor International, the insights provider, reported that annual per capita expenditure on clothing and footwear in the Asian nation has surged by 71% since 2006, hitting RMB1,154 in 2011.

The key driver of this process has been China's economic growth, as GDP expanded by over 9% in 2008 and 2009. A 10.4% lift in 2010 moderated in 2011, albeit to a "still impressive 9.2% gain.

Alongside rising affluence, the rapid development of the country's online population, which increased in size by 15% last year to reach 526m people, is reshaping habits.

Internet retail sales also leapt by 100% during the course of 2011, coming in at RMB159.7bn, and building on the 296% uptick from 2010.

By category, apparel recorded the highest value growth, enjoying a 168% improvement in revenues as its share of the market climbed to 2%, compared with 0.1% in 2007.

"That apparel has registered the strongest growth of all in online retailing should come as no surprise given that those fastest to switch to online shopping are younger people," Euromonitor argued.

"Diversity of choice, lower prices and convenience in terms of payment means that younger consumers have been quick to spend their extra money buying clothes online, and will continue to do so in growing numbers."

Tianmao – a unit of Alibaba Group previously known as Tmall and, before, that Taobao Mall – is the biggest online player at present. In November 2011, it generated revenues of RMB936bn in one day after running a limited-time sale.

Moonbasa, another local ecommerce operator, has seen its sales jump from RMB100m in 2009 and RMB300m in 2010 to almost RMB1bn last year.

Elsewhere, Belle International Holdings, one of the largest Chinese-owned apparel firm in terms of sales, has launched an aggressive online push, as offline specialists place a greater emphasis on the web.

VANCL, another Chinese firm, has pursued a similar approach, with Gap and Uniqlo among the foreign organisations rapidly enhancing their capabilities.

Data sourced from Euromonitor International; additional content by Warc staff