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A Guide to the Dutch Fashion Market

By Esmee Blaazer


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Beeld: Shopping street photo Amsterdam 2020. Credit: Aygin Kolaei for FashionUnited

BACKGROUND - For anyone looking to start or expand a fashion business in the Netherlands, here is a guide to the Dutch fashion market. Details on the market itself and everything that goes with it such as the shopping behaviour and desires of Dutch consumers, shopping streets, online shopping and, of course, sustainability.

Publication date: November 2022, including as much up-to-date information as possible (latest figures, surveys ed).


  1. Dutch weather, fashion style & culture
  2. Economy, purchasing power & clothing consumption
  3. Statistics Fashion Industry Netherlands
  4. Shopping
  5. Sustainability
  6. E-commerce

Chapter 1. Dutch weather, fashion style & culture

Let's start with a few clichés and need-to-knows about the weather in the Netherlands, Dutch fashion style and culture of the country.

The Dutch weather, on its own, should be noted

The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate. Winters are mild, as well as summers, and it rains all year round. Despite the Netherlands being known as a rainy country, it does not rain all the time, many dry periods also occur. The biggest issue is the unpredictability of Dutch weather. You never know what it is going to be.

Because of the weather, fashion brands from countries with roughly the same climate do well in the Netherlands: brands from countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway, for example. Also, clothes for the autumn or winter season tend to sell better in the Netherlands than clothes for the spring and summer seasons, because those garments are worn more because of the weather.

Image: shopping street image Amsterdam 2016. Property: FashionUnited

The Dutch style of clothing

Dutch consumers are less fashion-sensitive compared to consumers in Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom or Sweden.

(From:Dutch sustainable clothing consumption, Mayte Leinenga, Universiteit van Twente 2019. Source: 2014 fashion consumption and sustainability survey results among young consumers in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US by Andrea Farsang , Wencke Gwozdz, Tina Mueller, Lucia A. Reisch, Sarah Netter (2015), Mistra Future Fashion)

The majority of Dutch consumers think fashion is overrated. Only 10 percent of Dutch people who buy clothes say they follow fashion trends. Yet over 44 percent of Dutch people consider fashion very important. Most important to the Dutch are fit, price and style. Much less important do they consider where the garment was produced and whether it is a unique garment.

(From: Nederlandse sustainable clothing consumption van Mayte Leinenga, Universiteit van Twente 2019. Source: Onderzoek van Ruigrok Van der Kwaak, 2009)

Dutch consumers prefer comfort and flexibility. People wear one set of clothes and keep them on throughout the day. Dutch people generally do not dress up during the day and wear the same outfit at work to the pub.
(Source: 'Nederlandse identiteit in de mode: Co-evolutie tussen merken en consumenten.' Freiherr von Maltzahn, C.-F. 2013, UVA)

The Dutch fashion style is above all: uncomplicated, comfortable, relaxed, pragmatic and practical. A certain modernism is tolerated, but the Dutch don't like to make a fuss. “The Dutch are very down to earth, especially in Amsterdam. Every day is casual Friday”.

Since cycling is the most popular means of transport, clothes should be practical above all else.

Finally, denim deserves a special mention. The Dutch love denim very much. "The Dutch have jeans in their blood. Denim suits their mentality," said Adriano Goldschmied, the godfather of denim. The Dutch own an average of 5.4 pairs of jeans per person. Dutch weather also plays a role in this, because: ‘It’s (almost) never too hot for jeans in the Netherlands’.

Image: Aygin Kolaei for FashionUnited

Culture: Dutch love bargains

Sale, promotion, special offer, ‘everything must go,’ or free. "We love bargains, it's in our culture," Kitty Koelemeijer, professor of marketing and retail at Nyenrode University told Metronews in 2017. The Dutch dare to buy cheaper and be action-oriented. "Unlike in other countries, quality confirmation by a brand name is less important. Our retail is also focused on that," Koelemeijer told the newspaper.

Dutch people know where and when discounts are offered in regular shops (88 percent) and in online shops (83 percent). For many products (and clothes), the majority wait to buy until a discount promotion comes along. Two in three Dutch people wait for winter and summer sales before shopping. Four in ten people, and this is especially true for young people, wait for special discount days such as Black Friday.

The willingness to wait for discounts has increased over the past five years (between 2016 - 2021). For clothing, this increase is the strongest. On the other hand, the share of Dutch people willing to buy products without a discount has also increased slightly.
(Source: Nationale Korting Monitor 2021, Etil).

Image: Aygin Kolaei for FashionUnited

Chapter 2. The economy, purchasing power and clothing consumption

Netherlands: a country with good economic health

The Netherlands is a small but densely populated country. It currently has 17.7 million inhabitants. The Randstad, the area stretching from Utrecht, Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam, is the most densely populated and the most developed region in the country. It is also considered the economic heart of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands' economy is similar to that of the European Union as a whole. In general, the Netherlands has slow economic growth and a stable economy. (Source: Statista, July 2021)

Economic growth

The Netherlands is a small country within Europe. Yet it contributes 6 percent of the European Union's gross domestic product, making it the fifth-largest economy in the EU-27. (CBS, July 2021, based on Eurostat data)

Dutch GDP per capita one of highest in EU

The size of the Dutch economy per capita is more than one and a half times the EU average: almost 30,000 euro.

In 2020, the Dutch gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was almost 46,000 euro. After adjusting for different price levels in different countries, the Dutch GDP per capita is one of the highest in the EU. Only Luxembourg, Ireland and Denmark have higher prosperity levels.

Household disposable income in the Netherlands per capita: 26.5 thousand euros

Of the EU countries for which 2019 figures are available, the Netherlands ranks fifth, after Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Belgium.
(CBS, July 2021, based on Eurostat data)

Purchasing power

In 2019, Dutch people had an average of 20,416 euros available to spend and save, 39 percent more than the European average. The Netherlands ranks 14 out of 42 countries included in the survey.

Purchasing power in the Netherlands is fairly evenly distributed among the 12 provinces. The province of Zuid-Holland, with a purchasing power of 20,442 euros, ranks third out of the 12 and is close to the national average. North Holland has the highest purchasing power: 22,076 euros. (Source: 'GfK Purchasing Power Europe 2019', October 2019.)

North Holland is also home to the richest municipalities in the Netherlands, such as Blaricum, Bloemendaal and Laren, as well as the capital, Amsterdam.

What about clothing consumption in the Netherlands?

The Dutch buy less clothes than consumers in the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain. In 2018, Dutch households spent 14.6 billion euros on clothes. That seems a lot, but in the UK, households spent 65.4 billion euros a year on new clothes. That is more than four times as much. In Germany, households spend 62.7 billion euros a year on clothes, in Italy 52.4 billion euros, in France 35.7 billion euros and in Spain 24.1 billion euros.
(Source:: Consumptieve bestedingen van huishoudens aan kleding in de Europese Unie in 2018, per country, Statista 2022)

Spending on shoes & clothing in the Netherlands

Per capita spending on clothing and shoes in the Netherlands is estimated to be 1,201.89 dollars (about 1,027.56 euros) in 2021. By 2025, this amount is expected to be 1,406.95 dollars (about 1,202.88 euros).
(Source: Statista July 2021, 'Fashion consumer spending per capita forecast in the Netherlands 2010-2022'. These projections have been adjusted for the expected impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the local economy.)

Dutch people spend 721 euros on clothes and shoes per person per year.
(From the central government survey Fast Fashion 2020.Source: household spendings, CBS Statline 2015)

In 2015, 12.2 billion euros was spent on clothes and shoes by Dutch households. Three quarters of the expenditure is the purchase of new clothes. Of the spending on clothes, some 54 percent is spent on women's clothes, 31 percent on men's clothes and 15 percent on children's clothes.

Product & Total expenditure Dutch households
Women's clothing: 4.8 billion euros
Menswear: 2.8 billion euros
Baby and children's clothing: 1.4 billion euros
Shoes: 2.5 billion euros
Other: 0.6 billion euros
Total: 12.2 billion euros

This amounts to 1,178 euros per household per year, or 534 euros per inhabitant per year. If we add spending on shoes to this (i.e. clothes plus shoes), it is 721 euros per inhabitant per year.
(From the central government survey Fast Fashion 2020. Source: household spending, CBS Statline 2015)

Dutch consumer buys 46 new garments a year

The Dutch buy an average of 46 new items of clothing, shoes and accessories a year. Women, young adults and people in big cities own more clothes than men, older people and residents of smaller towns and villages. The average price of a garment is around 16 euros.
(Source: HvA (CREATE-IT applied research), MODINT, Saxion, Circle Economy, Sympany en MVO Nederland. 'Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain', 2017.)

If we divide the amount of 721 euros per year mentioned in the paragraph above by 46 items of clothing, that also comes out to the average price of 15.60 per item, rounded up to 16 euros.

Image: Aygin Kolaei for FashionUnited

Chapter 3. Statistics Fashion Industry Netherlands

The value of the Dutch apparel market is estimated at 10 billion euros. (Source: Modint)

In the Netherlands, almost 1 billion items of clothing and accessories enter the market every year. Not counting accessories, this amounts to 900 million garments. (Fast Fashion 2020, Source: CBS data 2008-2018 On import and export of garments).

Nederland is an important transit country. Most of the clothing imports, then go abroad again. In 2020, the Netherlands imported 12.4 billion euros worth of clothes, and exported 10.9 billion worth of clothes.

(Source: CBS: 'Trade in goods with a major environmental impact' longread, 2021. Data: CBS, Eurostat.)

In 2019, net sales excluding VAT in the Apparel & Sports segment were 13.8 billion euros. Fashion shops' net sales excluding VAT were 10.2 billion euros in 2019. (Source: Retail Insiders.)

The retail sector is one of the largest sectors in terms of employment in our country. In 2020, a total of 114,415 people worked in the Apparel & Sports sector. A total of 84,650 people work in fashion (clothing) shops. Source: Retail Insiders

The number of fashion companies in the Netherlands is more than 50,000. (Source: Bolddata, CBS en KV).

Physical clothing shops: 13.7 thousand (on 1 January 2022)
Over 13,000 shops sell clothes, which is 16 percent of all shops in the Netherlands. The number of clothing shops in the Netherlands is declining. (Source: CBS, May 2022) More on physical retail in chapter 4.

Webshops in clothing: 12,580 (in 2020 2nd quarter). Source: CBS 2022
The number of online shops has grown in recent years. More on webshops is covered in chapter 6: E-commerce.

Beeld: Aygin Kolaei for FashionUnited.

Chapter 4. Physical shops in the Netherlands

The largest group of physical shops in the Netherlands sells clothes. Clothing shops comprise about 16 percent of the total of nearly 84,000 'brick-and-mortar' retail outlets. (Source: CBS, May 2022).

Maastricht is the 'shopping capital' of the Netherlands; it has the highest shopping density of the 25 largest municipalities. On 1 January 2021, Maastricht had 7.1 physical shops per 1,000 inhabitants. In places two and three are Amsterdam with 6.2 physical shops and 's-Hertogenbosch with 5.9 shops per thousand inhabitants. In 2017, Maastricht was previously the shopping capital of our country. In absolute terms, Amsterdam is the retail capital of the Netherlands. (Source: CBS.)

The retail landscape is quite saturated, especially in the big cities.

The number of clothing shops in the Netherlands is going down

It can be challenging to be an independent fashion retailer in a world dominated by e-commerce giants like Zalando, Amazon and fast fashion vertical players like Zara and H&M.

In the past decade, the economic crisis and the increasing pressure of the saturated apparel market, especially in the mid-market segment, caused several major local fashion brands and retail chains to fail. Examples include Mexx in 2014, Miss Etam in 2015, MS Mode in 2016, McGregor Gaastra in 2016, V&D in 2016 and Men at Work in 2018.

A more recent example is Hudson's Bay, the international department store that established itself in the Netherlands and was seen as the successor to V&D. However, the Canadian Hudson's Bay Company made little effort to position the brand in the Netherlands and engage with Dutch consumers. The price level in the shop was high and competed with De Bijenkorf. De Bijenkorf is a premium department store and established name in the Netherlands. Due to the high price level at Hudson's Bay, the new department store repelled the former V&D customer. Also, the collection (the brand portfolio) was not unique or special and the shop concept on the floor looked cluttered and untidy. It soon became clear that it was not a success. Within two years, the curtain fell.

"A top executive at Germany's Kaufhof Karstadt, longtime owner of Hudson's Bay properties, concluded that a good strategy to reach Dutch consumers was lacking," retail expert Rupert Parker Brady told Avtrotros' EenVandaag in 2019.

Similar was also the failed Dutch fashion venture of Marks & Spencer, the British retailer that twice tried to conquer the Netherlands in the past. "It was very British in terms of offerings. In the Netherlands, people were mainly interested in the chain's food offerings. Nobody went to buy clothes there. As a result, they couldn't compete with the chains," Rupert Parker Brady said.

But, there have been some interesting additions to the Dutch high street.

Image: Green Up

Green department stores

Recently, a few green department stores have opened their doors, including Green Up in Utrecht and Nieuwe Mos Warenhuis in Amersfoort.

In a monumental building at Stadhuisbrug 5 in Utrecht, you can find the new green department store Green Up. Green Up offers ecological beauty products, sustainable fashion brands, upcycling workshops, second-hand furniture, vintage clothing, natural wines, local food and also has a botanical courtyard garden. About a third of the space is filled with fashion, including vintage concept Serendipity Vintage Dreamer, sustainable fashion platform Planet Hugs, and fair clothing brand Common & Sense and House of Useless, which makes clothes from upcycled materials. Mainly sustainable materials were also used for the interior design.

TOMO aims to launch the "world's first circular department store chain". Operating both offline and online, the department store offers sustainable and vintage clothing as well as the option to rent clothes. Customers can also have their clothes repaired or recycled there. TOMO's mission is to 'make sustainable retail the new normal'. It plans to open its first branch in the first quarter of 2023.

Mall of the Netherlands

Shopping centre Westfield Mall of the Netherlands, is a redevelopment of the Leidsenhage shopping centre in Leidschendam-Voorburg, in the Randstad. Mall of the Netherlands is positioned as "the Netherlands' first retail, leisure and entertainment destination. "The shopping centre, which opened its doors in March 2021, has nearly 3,000 shops, restaurants and entertainment. Retailers and brands have flagship stores there. It is a popular destination for a day out. The mall currently attracts around 1 million visitors a month.

Image: Mall of the Netherlands
Image: Mall of the Netherlands

What do Dutch consumers value in physical shopping?

So what makes a good physical shop in the Netherlands? What are consumer expectations?

Crossmarks published 'The 40 most inspiring retailers in the Netherlands' about this in 2019, in which the retail consultancy defined 'The five pillars of inspiration'.

The survey ('The Inspiring 40: Retail Edition', conducted by Crossmarks and Synergie) reveals five pillars, which collectively determine how inspiring a retailer is. These pillars are: range & assortment, shop design, shop experience, customer contact and identity.

1. Offer and range: offer me what I need
A wide range, good quality products and services and good value for money. Ikea, Rituals, Dille & Kamille and Hunkemöller are good at this. It is clear what is on offer, increasing the chances of success.

2. Shop design: assistance finding what they need
Pleasant navigation and a clear and attractive shop layout. Two retailers that excel in this according to Crossmarks are ICI Paris XL and Bever.

3. Shopping experience: surprise me with a place with something to do
Rituals creates an oasis of calm in the busy city centre and Intratuin is a place where one can go for numerous workshops and children can go on a scavenger hunt. Like Ikea, Intratuin is quite popular for an outing in the Netherlands. They both have a restaurant and play area. Intratuin has a carousel, and the Christmas market starts as early as October.

4. Customer Service: see me and be there for me
Retailers who are helpful and approachable are inspiring, consumers say. People find it important to get in touch with staff quickly and easily. Whereas many retailers still use their customer contact as a complaints desk, pure player Bol.com is a retailer that manages to surprise with a customer service that is available day and night.

5. Identity: show what you stand for and what happens behind the scenes
The fifth pillar, identity, helps to inspire at a higher level, according to Crossmarks. With this pillar, retailers can really make a difference. "Openness and honesty, also about what happens behind the scenes, is becoming increasingly important. Show what you stand for and how you get there, the path of innovation." Ikea is the example, according to Crossmarks. "The retailer shows the mission (a better everyday life for the many people) everywhere, in all 423 shops in 52 countries. Whether it is an LED lamp for one euro, the HR policy ("we hire character, not skills"), or the way the company works on sustainability throughout the chain.”

The retailers Crossmarks mentions under these five pillars are therefore the companies that occupy the top ten in 'The 40 most inspiring retailers in the Netherlands'. Ikea is the most inspiring retailer in the Netherlands, followed by Rituals, Dille & Kamille, ICI Paris XL, Bever, Douglas, Flying Tiger, Intratuin, Hunkemöller and Riviera Maison.
(Source: Cossmarks)

This research also reveals that:
86 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a better shopping experience

44 Percent of all retailers inspire consumers, so more than half do not!

Only 27 percent of retailers know how to inspire with the offer & range (73 percent not yet!)

During the (corona) lockdown, Dutch consumers said they missed shopping at the following retailers the most: Action, Hema, Bijenkorf, Zeeman, Primark, Ikea, Mediamarkt, Blokker, Intratuin and Primera.
(Source: 2021 research by Q&A among 4500 Dutch people)

Action, an originally Dutch, international discount store chain, with Buddha statues to underwear and socks in its range, offers an experience. It surprises shoppers because you never know what you might find.

Melvin van Tholl, a Dutch 'experience architect' with a background in hospitality has been advocating for years: "The physical shop's right to exist hinges on experience."

Consumer spending shifts: Money is shifting from traditional retail (chains) to hospitality and to retailers embracing omnichannel, convenience platforms and experience.

This change in consumer behaviour is visible everywhere, including in the Netherlands. We are turning in mass to convenience platforms to save time, hassle and money. We prefer to spend these on experiences - places where there is something to experience.

Retail as a world of convenience
Convenience is important and today's super retailers are cleverly capitalising on this. This is the domain of disruptive platforms like Amazon, Coolblue, Net-a-Porter and Farfetch. But also price-fighters like Primark, Poundland or the dollar stores in the US. Coolblue delivers and installs your new washing machine with a few mouse clicks. And as icing on the cake: they take away your old machine straight away. At the discount stores, you pay less for more. Convenience allows consumers to save not only time, but also money and effort.

Retail as a world of entertainment
Experience is still fairly unexplored territory for retailers and (fashion) brands. Here, the stage belongs to brands creating hangouts for their fans. Take, for example, House of Vans -the trainer brand- which has transformed old London Underground corridors into a unique world with indoor skate park, gallery, bar and event spaces. Another hangout example is Apple Town Square. These experience shops have one thing in common: the aim is precisely to maximise time, money and effort. By keeping you 'inside' for as long as possible, the likelihood of consumption and thus a purchase increases.

Dutch consumers still prefer physical shopping

Pre-Covid-19 80 per cent of turnover in the fashion industry in the Netherlands came from physical shops according to industry association INretail.

Recent research by ABN Amro bank and Q&A Research among almost 2,000 Dutch people shows that the physical shop is still the favourite sales channel, but all the while the growth of 'online shopping' continues.

Changes in shopping behaviour due to pandemic

’Fun shopping’ has taken a hit
18 percent of Dutch consumers say they are shopping less.

Big cities are out, local shopping is in
Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, shopping streets in major cities were shunned. Almost one in five Dutch people prefer to go to a shop nearby. 27 per cent of consumers say they now find it more important to buy from independent shops.

Visitors are better prepared and come with a purpose
Shoppers who do come to the high street are prepared, they have researched beforehand, and they have more to spend.

Consumers shop more consciously than before the crisis
Customers are (again) buying local, less and better. The importance of sustainable products has increased compared to the pre-crisis period. Now, 1 in 4 Dutch people say they consider sustainable products more important and 28 percent say they want to pay a fair price.

Low-priced products have become more important!
In contrast, 26 percent said low-priced products had become more important during the pandemic.
(Source: ABN Amro research ‘Towards a new normal in shopping behaviour’, 2021)

When do people shop in the Dutch high street?

Saturday remains the busiest shopping day, but this day becomes slightly less important every year. The quietest times are Monday and Sunday mornings. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are about as busy these days, the same goes for Thursdays and Fridays, when there are already slightly more crowds.

In terms of time of day, on average most passers-by are around 2.30 pm. In larger cities, this peak is slightly lower, in smaller towns slightly earlier, because shops close earlier there. For now, shopping streets are busier in the afternoon than in the morning.
(Source: Bureau RMC)

Image for illustration, via Pexels

Chapter 5. Sustainability

Ownership & use of clothing in the Netherlands

Every Dutch wardrobe contains 173 items. Over 120 items are actively in use and worn regularly. This means that 28 percent of items in the wardrobe goes unused. Women, young adults and people living in larger cities have more clothes than men, older adults and people living in smaller towns and villages.
Source: HvA (CREATE-IT applied research), MODINT, Saxion, Circle Economy, Sympany en MVO Nederland. 'Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain', 2017.

Dutch people use their clothes for about 4 years, which is average compared to other European countries. ’Dutch sustainable clothing consumption’, Mayte Leinenga, Universiteit van Twente 2019. Source: Gray, 2017

For every Dutch person, 40 items of clothing are thrown away every year. Source: HvA (CREATE-IT applied research), MODINT, Saxion, Circle Economy, Sympany en MVO Nederland. Published research report 'Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain', 2017.

Textiles that are no longer worn or used usually go into a textile bin or are given away to charity or friends/acquaintances. Source: GFK - Shopping Tomorrow, 2021.

Attitude and behaviour of Dutch consumers towards sustainable clothing consumption

Dutch consumers can be considered moderately sustainable clothing consumers. From: Dutch sustainable clothing consumption, Mayte Leinenga, Universiteit van Twente 2019. Source: Gray, 2017

Half of Dutch consumers say they pay attention to sustainability when buying goods.
Sources: 46 percent according to Dossier Duurzaamheid 2018 by GFK and 54 percent according to ABN research in 2018.

For many consumers, sustainability is a nice bonus when the item meets all other important criteria, such as shape, price and style.
(From: Dutch sustainable clothing consumption, Mayte Leinenga, Universiteit van Twente 2019. Source: Ruigrok Van der Kwaak, 2009)

Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of their consumption behaviour and expect companies to work on sustainability and play an active role in it. Many say they consider it important, but in practice do not yet attach any or few consequences to it for brands and retailers. Research suggests this will become increasingly important by 2030.
(Source: Rapport Retail 2030, INretail, 2017)

So for brands, communicating about sustainability is also becoming increasingly important. For retail and fashion retailers, this means a transition to an open organisation and to full transparency, with consumers having full insight into organisational policies and production processes.
(Source: Rapport Retail 2030, INretail, 2017)

Consumers are more loyal to companies that make a positive contribution to society. (Source: Communicatie & Branding Euretco Fashion Academy)

Are Dutch people willing to pay more for sustainability?

The share of consumers willing to pay extra for sustainable products increased from 2014 to 2018. Over 30 percent accept to pay more for sustainable products.
(Source: Dossier Duurzaamheid 2018, GFK)

Consumers accept to pay up to 12 percent more. (Source: ABN, 2018)

According to GFK, 80 percent of consumers who find a sustainable proposition attractive are also willing to pay a premium price. On average, the additional price is between 14 percent and 22 percent.
(Source: Dossier Duurzaamheid 2018, GFK)

Another 2019 survey shows that the majority of Dutch consumers do want to buy durable jeans, but only if they are still affordable. This is where Dutch bargain culture comes into play again. The price was not specified.
(Source: ABN AMRO Kruistocht voor een schone en eerlijke spijkerbroek, 2019)

Attitude towards second-hand / rental / lease

About 7 items in the Dutch wardrobe are second-hand. Source: HvA (CREATE-IT applied research), MODINT, Saxion, Circle Economy, Sympany en MVO Nederland. 'Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain', 2017.

Two in three Dutch people are open to buying second-hand items. The main reason for buying second-hand items is that it saves money. Consumers do expect the price of second-hand, recycled or refurbished items to be between 25 and 45 per cent lower than a new item.
Source: ABN, 2018

More and more consumers are open to or pay for use instead of owning. 49 per cent of consumers are enthusiastic about short-term renting as an alternative to buying. Source: ABN Amro, 2018.

Conclusion: a sustainable wardrobe is not yet a top priority for Dutch consumers, but there is an increasingly positive attitude and behaviour towards sustainability and clothing.

Last but not least: Consumer watchdog ACM has launched an investigation into misleading sustainability claims in the clothing sector, among others

Authority Consumer & Market (ACM) wants to put an end to the many misleading sustainability claims. The consumer watchdog launched an investigation into deceptive sustainability claims in the clothing sector, among others, in 2021.

ACM wants to enforce that sustainability claims are only used in a fair and transparent manner. According to the ACM, this benefits both consumers and competitors: consumers can make clearer choices and competitors do not face incorrect sustainability claims from competitors.

For example, one of the claims was 'T-shirt made of organic cotton' when the product is only 50 per cent organic cotton. If companies use sustainability claims incorrectly, the ACM can impose fines of up to 900,000 euros.

In the apparel sector, ACM has written to 70 companies by 2021. At six clothing companies ACM has launched a follow-up investigation to potentially misleading sustainability claims, the watchdog reported in November 2021. According to the organisation, both Decathlon and H&M, among other retailers, were found to have utilised “unclear and insufficiently substantiated sustainability claims” during its investigation.

ACM also has drawn up five tips for making reliable sustainability claims.

Beeld: Aygin Kolaei for FashionUnited

Chapter 6. E-commerce in the Netherlands

Online shopping behaviour: what do the Dutch buy online?

E-commerce has been growing for years. (Source: CBS)

Dutch are buying more and more online. Compared to other countries, Dutch consumers score high when it comes to their preference for online shopping. The Netherlands ranks fifth internationally and this preference has increased in the past year. (Source: Klarna Shopping Pulse, February 2022)

Not only are more and more people buying products online, the amount they spend online has also increased in recent years. (Source: CBS Longread ‘What do we buy online?’, 2021)

To give an idea: In 2020, the Dutch spent 26,6 billion euros online, 7 procent more than the year before. Last year, in 2021, the Dutch spent 30,6 billion euro online, a 16 percent year-on-year increase (27.7 billion euros online spending Netherlands, 2.9 billion outside the Netherlands). Of course, during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, more was bought online than ever before.

E-commerce growth is expected to continue, but at a lower pace. Source: Home Shopping Market Monitor. Fewer Dutch people bought clothes and shoes online in 2022 than a year earlier. According to the latest figures from CBS.

Online shopping: Who and when?

25- to 45 year-olds like to buy online. Source: CBS Longread ‘What do we buy online?’, 2021 Shoppers under 40 - Gen Z'ers and Millennials - shop more online than in physical shops. (Source: Klarna Shopping Pulse, February 2022)

Women are as active e-shoppers as men: 77 percent of women and men shop online. Men do spend more money on online shopping than women. (Source: CBS Longread ‘What do we buy online?’, 2021)

Wednesday is the most popular day for online shopping. In terms of time of day, 9pm is the peak time. (Source: Klarna Shopping Pulse, februari 2022)

Zoom in on fashion e-commerce:

Clothing is among the most popular internet purchases Particularly clothing, shoes and accessories are purchased online. (Source: 59 percent of the Dutch, according to CBS Longread ‘What do we buy online?’, 2021 & Source: Eurostat 2022.)

The Dutch are expected to buy around 44 percent of their clothes online and 40 per cent of their shoes and lifestyle items by 2026. This is predicted by research firm GfK based on an analysis commissioned by e-commerce network ShoppingTomorrow. In 2021, this share was 34 percent. (Source: GFK Shopping Tomorrow, 2021)

Physical vs Online Shopping in the Netherlands

Dutch consumers prefer physical shopping. In 2019, some 2.2 million Dutch people did not buy anything online (Source: CBS Longread The Netherlands in figures 'What percentage of Dutch people buy online? And what...?' 2020) 80 percent preferred to visit a shop, for example to see the product in real life.

Pre-Covid 80 percent of fashion sales in the Netherlands came from physical shops, according to industry association INretail. (More on physical shopping in chapter 4)

Beeld: Aygin Kolaei for FashionUnited

Mobile first

The smartphone is fast becoming the most important device for online shopping 59 percent of Dutch online shoppers use a smartphone. Almost half expect to make most of their online purchases via mobile by 2026. (Source:GFK Shopping Tomorrow, 2021)

It is important that the content of brands and retailers is suitable for digital channels and devices. (Source: 'Trendrapport Handel' SBB, 2021)

Dutch consumers are true omnichannel shoppers

Dutch consumers are omnichannel shoppers. (Source: Blis rapport 'The real retail story: Evolving shopper behaviour in EMEA', 2019)

4 out of 10 Dutch consumers want to try and see a product in shop first before ordering it online. About the same number of consumers prefer to order online and pick it up in store. (Source:GFK Shopping Tomorrow, 2021)

44 percent of Dutch consumers also want the shopping experience to be the same everywhere, regardless of the distribution channel: in-store, online or via a mobile device. Omnichannel retail is important for the consumer experience. (Source: ‘5 Things You Should Know Before Entering the Dutch Market’ Textmaster, 2018)


The most popular payment method in the Netherlands is Ideal. Post-pay providers such as Klarna and Afterpay, are also on the rise.

What do Dutch people find most important during online shopping at fashion web shops?

For Dutch consumers, these are the most important aspects when buying clothes/shoes online

  1. The return options
  2. Shipping costs
  3. Return costs; Dutch consumers like free delivery and free returns.

It should be noted that a third of clothing orders are returned.

Dutch online shoppers at fashion web shops are most satisfied when:

  1. When the website is easy to find
  2. The ordering process is simple
  3. Wide range; the reason why online platforms are quite popular.

Looking at the Top 10 online shops in the Netherlands in 2021, five out of 10 sell clothes, namely Bol.com, Zalando, Wehkamp, Amazon and De Bijenkorf. (Source: Twinkle100, 2021 edition)

More and more consumers are seeing the convenience of these kinds of 'search engine' shops with lots of filtering options, and therefore brands and retailers alike join (for visibility, sales etc.). For example, there is Bol.com's partner programme and Zalando Connected Retail.

Online shopping at fashion shops: this is what the Dutch are least satisfied with

  1. Inspiration
  2. Delivery/pick-up options; 90 percent of Dutch people prefer to determine the delivery date themselves. When online shops fail to deliver on promises about delivery time or stock levels, the majority do not shop with the store in question again. (Source: Descarters)
  3. Customer service accessibility; customer service of Dutch companies is very 'customer-centric', the customer is always right.

(Source: GFK Insights 'De online fashion shopper journey, October 2017.)

Beeld: Aygin Kolaei for FashionUnited

Conclusion on the Netherlands and the fashion market

The Dutch are well-informed, demanding consumers with great purchasing power.

dutch fashion market
Fashion Education
The Netherlands