By Max Clarke

Sales in online fashion in the UK have defied the recession, jumping 152% since 2005; with 35% of Brits having purchased clothes online in the last 12 months.

This is according to the lastest research by market intelligence company, Mintel, in the most recent of their Oxygen Reports.

While Britain’s retailers continue to struggle, ecommerce- now worth upwards of £4.3 billion a year- remains among the fastest growing retail sectors.

"The market received a boost as several high street fashion retailers enveloped their online channels at the end of 2010,” explained Tamara Sender, Mintel’s fashion anayst, “with leading high street retailers launching websites and other online retailers entering the fashion market.”

The importance of social media to online fashion is highlighted by the fact that almost six in ten consumers look for customer feedback or reviews if they are unsure about a website.

Meanwhile, the same proportion of consumers are nervous about buying from websites they are unfamiliar with, for example those without UK contact details. Despite the desire for websites to include customer reviews, over a third of adults do not like to leave feedback or share opinions online about sites they have used, compared to three in ten who do like to.

“While growth in online clothing sales during 2011 is expected to be impacted by the economy, more innovative online campaigns - together with new technology such as augmented and 3D reality, use of QR codes and mobile optimised sites - will help to overcome people’s fears of shopping online and draw more people to the sector.

"Innovation is key and retailers and brands need to maximise online sales by selling clothes via social networking sites and using Facebook and Twitter to interact with consumers and improve their services. Despite rising smartphone ownership, particularly among young consumers, many fashion retailers have been slow to ensure that they have mobile optimised websites and many have still not launched apps.” Tamara continues.