Will Amazon button down the menswear category with its new private label line?

Discussion
Source: amazon.com/ButtonedDown
Dec 14, 2016
George Anderson

Amazon.com has not been coy about its goal to become the largest seller of clothing in the U.S. As department stores, mass and specialty retailers have done before it, Amazon is looking at its own private labels to help bring its plan to fruition.

The latest case in point is the company’s launch of a new menswear brand, Buttoned Down, that is starting off with a line of high-quality, non-iron dress shirts made from 100 percent Supima Cotton. The line, which will initially only be available for purchase by Amazon Prime members, offers 72 size combinations and is available in classic and fitted cuts as well as a limited variety of colors and patterns. Big and tall sizes are also included in the line.

As it has in the past, Amazon is not just playing up the quality of its private label but also its value. With prices starting at $39 for the shirts, they compare favorably with similar shirts sold by competitors, such as Brooks Brothers, Lands’ End and Nordstrom.

“We’re always looking to make high quality apparel more accessible for our guys,” said Warren Satchell, men’s fashion editor at Amazon Fashion, in a statement. “Whether he’s wearing it with a suit and tie, or just tucked into jeans on a casual Friday, Buttoned Down is a no-fuss, reliable option that guarantees effortless style and great value.”

Amazon seems convinced of its new line’s quality as indicated by its 100 percent money back guarantee. Items can be returned if a customer is dissatisfied with the product at any time, regardless of the reason. Amazon plans to expand to other menswear categories, including dress pants, sport shirts and sweaters.

The launch of Buttoned Down as a Prime member exclusive could indicate a change in how Amazon plans to market its subscription service going forward, according to a Washington Post article. Instead of primarily pushing speedy deliveries, Amazon may shift more of its focus to offers exclusively available to Prime members.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why do you think Amazon.com has launched its Buttoned Down private label shirt line as a Prime member exclusive offer? What will this strategy mean for Amazon’s business as well as those looking to compete with it?

Braintrust
"By creating its own line available only to Prime members, Amazon is giving Prime membership an exclusive feel and increasing its sartorial reputation."
"I hate to admit it, but I think Amazon has got it right this time. Men are prime targets (pun intended) for this kind of business..."
"This could be a signal that Amazon is moving on from the self-destructive race to have the fastest delivery service possible."

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13 Comments on "Will Amazon button down the menswear category with its new private label line?"

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Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I sometimes feel like an unintentional Amazon basher, but I just don’t see Amazon getting the street cred associated with private label apparel. And if the price “compares favorably to” a similar item at Nordstrom, why would you pick Amazon?

I just don’t see it. At all. Not until Amazon has stores.

Peter Sobotta
Guest

Launching the private label for Prime members only is a very smart strategy for two reasons. First it allows Amazon to segment the offering to known early adopters and loyal Amazon customers. Respectively, the feedback loop will be faster and the total risk exposure is limited. Second it reinforces the exclusivity of being a Prime member. And we all want to be in the “in” group, otherwise we would order a large coffee and not a “Venti.”

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Should I be forced to buy from Starbucks, I order the “small” just to see if they understand the sizes the rest of the coffee world uses.

Jasmine Glasheen
Staff
Jasmine Glasheen
Contributing Editor
1 year 1 day ago

By creating its own line available only to Prime members, Amazon is giving Prime membership an exclusive feel and increasing its sartorial reputation. Amazon is especially savvy to market the Supima Cotton material of the shirts, as the Millennial-minded customer looks for quality instead of a label. Still, being one of the first to don Amazon’s new line comes with Silicon Valley-esque bragging rights of its own.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Why not include another benefit for Prime membership? Amazon has close to 70 million people paying them $100 a year for the privilege of shopping. The company is smart to provide as many benefits of membership across as many categories as possible to these valuable customers. The money back guarantee for Buttoned Down clothing is a great way to introduce the line.

Tom Dougherty
BrainTrust

Amazon is like P&G. They have a plan to dominate every line of their business. What’s interesting, from a brand perspective (my bent), is that it is labeled with a semi-independent flanker brand name — Buttoned Down.

This is a smart move. In time, consumers won’t see it as a house brand at all but rather as a mainstream brand offered only online.

Unlike women’s fashions, men’s is an easy jumping off point. They have only a few size options to consider. Collar size, sleeve length and fit. Perfect for online purchases.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Basics used to be a safe, reliable, margin-comfortable area for retailers to include in their assortments, or for some to make as the base offering. I don’t doubt Amazon’s ability to take the long view of dominating this market, as unlike store retailers they can offer a full size/color range and in-stock program, and Amazon is already a low-risk online option. I think basics of commodity products like a button down becomes a high risk part of an assortment for a brick-and-mortar retailer in the future, as a significant portion of their sales potential will be going online.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

I agree with Tom that it is a smart move for Amazon to enter the fashion world with men’s shirts. The variables are very limited and, in most cases, every men’s shirt purchaser knows what will fit the person they are buying for.

I did a search for their line. It was not as easy to find as I thought a newly-launched brand would be. Perhaps they are not ready to handle the negative feedback they may get from all the other brands they carry.

Naomi K. Shapiro
BrainTrust

I hate to admit it, but I think Amazon has got it right this time. Men are prime targets (pun intended) for this kind of business — easy, direct and appealing. It’s for men who don’t want to bother with more than what’s necessary, while getting what sounds like quality at a good price and, as Tom Dougherty mentioned above, it’s a great perk for Prime members.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Once again, Amazon takes a page from the Costco membership model and gives it a Bezos twist — this time using slightly higher quality as the differentiating feature — and adds it to the Prime benefits instead of just making “Amazon shirts” available on its website. The latter move would no doubt have been destined for the land of misfit retailing ideas — and appropriately so.

I’m perfectly happy wearing Costco jeans and flannels to work at the farm. And I would be perfectly happy with the Buttoned Down shirts at the office (If I didn’t still have a closet full of perfectly good name-brand button downs from the “suit and tie days.”) Another smart move from Amazon.

Marge Laney
BrainTrust

I agree 100 percent with Paula. No apparel buying decision is final until the item has been tried on. Online apparel returns run 30 to 50 percent, and 70 percent of the returns are due to fit issues. Virtual fitting rooms and reviews just can’t take the place of the try-on.

Jeff Sward
Guest

I have to applaud what Amazon is doing … and how they are doing it. This is not about “street cred” or anything “sartorial” or “fashion.” They have focused on continuous demand, non-seasonal, low risk product: relatively straightforward shirts any guy can understand. There should be very little if not zero investment in product development. The right shirt maker can handle this assignment easily. It’s almost a replacement service in a commodity segment of the business. It quickly becomes an issue of supply chain management. There might be a few fit issues in the beginning, but once a guy settles on the right fit, he can comfortably buy a lot of product from his desk or phone. He’ll be on Prime anyway, for all kinds of product. It’s easy to envision various forms of pop-up or email marketing reminding him how easy it would be to tack a shirt onto his order.

Adrien Nussenbaum
BrainTrust

This could be a signal that Amazon is moving on from the self-destructive race to have the fastest delivery service possible. Amazon always has looked for ways to differentiate, and same-day delivery, but was very expensive to implement. It’s possible that Jeff Bezos was vicious enough to do something (fast delivery) that would cost competitors a lot to try to keep up, and 90% of customers don’t care about.

What Amazon is doing by making this Prime-only is creating an exclusive club of people who buy a service from Amazon. Prime goes from a delivery service to an overall service that includes products, music, movies, clothing, and everything Amazon. Meanwhile, competitors are still trying to keep up with Amazon in delivery, price, and assortment, and are less able to innovate.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"By creating its own line available only to Prime members, Amazon is giving Prime membership an exclusive feel and increasing its sartorial reputation."
"I hate to admit it, but I think Amazon has got it right this time. Men are prime targets (pun intended) for this kind of business..."
"This could be a signal that Amazon is moving on from the self-destructive race to have the fastest delivery service possible."

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