Amazon Explores Private Label Opportunity

Jun 18, 2009

By George Anderson

The Spanish came to the New World in search of gold. Now it
appears as though, like many other retailers, is looking to strike
gold with the introduction of a new private label line. One, not coincidentally,
that is named after Vincente Yáñez Pinzón, the Spanish
explorer who first captained the Nina on the expedition led by Christopher
Columbus in 1492 and later discovered the Amazon River. has a page dedicated to a line of products for the
home including furniture, bedding, sheets, kitchen gadgets and more, proclaiming, “Pinzon
Style is Your Lifestyle.”

The Amazon Strategies blog
by Channel Advisor CEO Scot Wingo noted that a Pinzon
search on Amazon turned up 551 items. Interestingly 100 Pinzon products were
also for sale on eBay. Responses to the post brought to light other Amazon-owned
brands including Strathwood (outdoor furniture) and Denali (bench and power

A piece on the Fast Company website
concluded, “The fact that a pioneer of online retailing and maker of such
forward-looking products as the Kindle is dabbling in private label linens
and patio furniture speaks well of the dexterity of Amazon’s leadership.
The company can make money selling e-readers, but it can also make money
selling miter saws. The move into private labels means Amazon is competing
with its obvious online rivals like eBay, but it’s also staying competitive
with storefront rivals like Target or Kohl’s.”

Discussion Question: What is your
reaction to moving into private label goods? Why do you think
the normally publicity-seeking Amazon has been so low-key about its move
into private labels?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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8 Comments on "Amazon Explores Private Label Opportunity"

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Max Goldberg
11 years 11 months ago

Amazon’s move into private label and the quiet way they are doing it are both good. Amazon has become a trusted name to consumers. They are extending that brand equity to private label products. It seems as if releasing these products quietly is giving Amazon management a chance to see how consumers respond to them. If they are well received, I would expect Amazon to make them more visible soon.

Ben Ball
11 years 11 months ago

Amazon is not marketing private label in the traditional sense–they are choosing to own and develop proprietary brands. There is a huge difference. The fact that they have been doing it for a while without public fanfare indicates that Amazon management gets it.

Phil Rubin
11 years 11 months ago

Having long contended here that Amazon is the best retailer in the world, it is no surprise and entirely appropriate that they move into PL. Amazon and its team know their business, clearly have dexterous leadership (and likewise other “levels” of management skill) and more than anything, they know their customers.

Bezos’ obsession with customers should be a lesson to every retail CEO. That obsession clearly cascades throughout the organization.

In terms of the low profile strategy, there are times to step on the gas and times to stay in control. PL is a way to leverage a customer franchise and create a halo from non-PL branded goods to create sell through at higher margin. There is no need to be overly promotional, certainly not at this point.

Finally, a side note related to Best Buy’s numbers: they didn’t mention Amazon by name but there’s no doubt in my mind, as suggested here a while back, that Circuit City’s demise was a boon to Amazon more than BBY.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 11 months ago

Amazon introducing Private Label (PL) is a logical next step for the online retailer. Costco has done an amazing job with their Kirkland Private Label brand. No reason an on-line retailer as well known and respected as Amazon can’t do the same and be just as successful. The key for Amazon will be keeping the quality high and pricing competitive. I like their initial ideas for the PL name and the initial categories they are introducing.

Food and clothing items may take longer for Amazon and will be tougher to gain consumer acceptance. Costco and other brick and mortar retailers will have the high ground in these two categories for some time. Finally, brick and mortar stores will need to keep an eye on Amazon and be sure their Private Label initiatives are one or two steps ahead. Also, don’t be surprised if other online retailers follow suit.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
11 years 11 months ago

As other retailers have private label products and both compete and collaborate with the manufacturers, so too is Amazon following this path. As retailers have been able to find a niche with their private label products among their loyal consumers, so too will Amazon be able to do that. If anyone has a doubt whether Amazon is more than a distribution company, this move reinforces their position as a retailer.

Don Delzell
Don Delzell
11 years 11 months ago
A few observations. The current navigation at Amazon has choices for Best Selling, Price, Relevance and Customer Rating. Depending on the depth of the initial search, where and how the private label appear becomes problematic. This is relevant in that traditionally, Apple withstanding, private brands tend to occupy specific places within a traditional merchandise assortment ladder. Of course, Amazon has nothing like a traditional merchandise assortment. However, the logic behind private branding is that it provides an alternative to external brands which fulfills a need not covered in the existing assortment, or fulfills it better (value, usually). Given the complete inability of Amazon to present a tiered merchandise assortment, it’s difficult to see how the private brand will be anything other than just another entry into a huge SKU base. How is the customer supposed to know the value proposition? Added to this, when I tried to shop for Denali via “brand” in the Tool section, it was not listed in the “top brands” landing page. Huh? It’s relatively easy to create a line of… Read more »
Mark Price
Mark Price
11 years 11 months ago
The greatest challenges when you move from branded marketing to private label are (1) rate of change, (2) margin level and (3) competitive set, both traditional and alternative. Two of the categories discussed are very sensitive to such pressures. Consumer electronics is a low margin business with a high level of change. Each season, new technologies are launched which more and more quickly cannibalize existing products (see iPod touch and Blu Ray for example). It is difficult for a company to invest in private label when the products are changing so rapidly. Groceries have long been a business with a strong competitive set, new alternatives (see rise of club stores, Target and Wal-Mart) and low overall margins. You add all of these up, and it will be hard for Amazon to provide products cheaper than Wal-Mart, more convenient than the local market and with higher quality than existing branded products. Cosmetics and sporting goods are markets which have been a bit more stable, with fewer new entrants and higher margins. Those markets may provide the… Read more »
Robert Heiblim
Robert Heiblim
11 years 10 months ago
This is an interesting topic in that I would contend that Amazon does not think of these items as Private Label. Rather, they are taking a full brand marketer approach. To a great extent this is why they are proceeding as they are allowing the brands to grow like any other new entrant to their marketplace and not trying to “tilt the playing field” in their direction. Often (and my space is CE) the motivation is only margin and that can lead to poor product or overreaching of competence. In Amazon’s case they have or are building the full competence and like any other vendor trying to fill needs, conquer pain and delight their consumers. The kindle is a great example as it is not cheap, certainly fills a gap and shows full PM skills. I expect to see Amazon proceed carefully and deliberately to make themselves a full competitor in areas where they feel they will make a difference and to defer to others who can do it better where they cannot. Mr Bezos… Read more »

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