Amazon Plans Haute Couture Takeover

Discussion
Jun 22, 2010

By George Anderson

Amazon.com is looking to go upscale with its clothing and
shoe business, staging a relaunch that has its sites set on "rivals such
as Yoox and Net-A-Porter," according
to a Financial Times report.

The e-tailer is recruiting software engineering
talent to help it develop "great
new features to change the way people shop for clothing." As it has done
in other categories, Amazon is looking to set the standard by which consumers
judge all others in the space.

The push by Amazon comes on the heels of the
eBay Fashion (fashion.ebay.com) launch in early April. That site is looking
to build on the traditional eBay approach by adding an online mall of top retailers,
such as Brooks Brothers and Lord & Taylor, as well as offering flash sales.

Fashion
sales at eBay in 2009 have been estimated at somewhere between $5.5 billion
and $7.1 billion. Scot Wingo, chief executive of ChannelAdvisor, said Amazon’s
clothing, accessory and shoe sales are in the $6 billion to $8 billion range.

Amazon
has apparently taken some of the tricks of its Zappos business and made them
its own. The company is now offering free returns on all U.S. clothing orders
over $25.

It is also looking to provide a more sophisticated visual experience
with expanded viewing options and color variations that it began using in
its denim store during last year’s Christmas selling season.

Discussion Questions: Is Amazon ready to do for clothes what it did for books
and numerous other categories online? Are American consumers ready to give up
stores and take their clothes and shoe shopping online?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

49 Comments on "Amazon Plans Haute Couture Takeover"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 10 months ago

There is no doubt, in my mind at least, that Amazon will enjoy growing success in apparel. At $6-8 billion annual sales, they are already a major player. The acquisition of Zappos was brilliant.

Whether they will have the same success in apparel as they have enjoyed in more “data-rich” categories like books, movies, and electronics seems unlikely. There are still the elements of “touch,” fit, and impulse that are just very hard to replicate in a digital environment, although I’m sure they’re working on it.

Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Amazon stays on top of the online retail mountain through innovation and a passion for customer service. There’s no reason to doubt that their push into haute couture will be successful. Will it drastically alter how Americans shop for clothes and shoes? No.

As we have seen in many categories, consumers like the options presented by online and brick and mortar stores. They enjoy researching online then trying on clothes in stores. Amazon moving aggressively into clothing and shoes won’t change this. There is plenty of room in the marketplace for all modes of shopping.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 10 months ago

Can Amazon mature
Into haute couture?
Maybe so, maybe not
But Amazon is hot.

So I’m saying out loud,
Of a company that’s proud,
Count on them becoming pros
As it moves into clothes.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 10 months ago
It is questionable if Haute Couture can be successful at Amazon, if just because of the product positioning. With regard to the question “Are American consumers ready to give up stores and take their clothes and shoe shopping on line?” Let me repeat my comments from last week…. My baby boomer wife, who ten years ago would not go near a computer, tried the new apparel service offered by Zappos. The next day when she received the wide selection of items she had ordered, she laid them out on the bed and showed me with much glee…”Don’t worry, I am not keeping them all, only two. But, look at this!!! They even have real labels. Why would I ever go to a store again?” It is already happening. American consumers are giving up stores and taking their clothes and shoe shopping online. This is not a fad. This is not a trend driven by the economy. It is a real phenomenon that is growing at a very rapid rate. Or, as my wife said, “Why… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

I can’t rhyme, but I agree with Gene’s! I’m sure there’s a rhyme in there somewhere, but I’m short of snappy rhymes today.

Zappos and others have converted even Scanner. Amazon has done well for me after blunders in the past. I think they are on their way towards expansion into many areas, clothing being only one.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Imagine this: two of the companies best at providing Outstanding Customer Service becoming one. WOW! What a thought. And now we have it with the merger of Amazon and Zappos. So now we have these two brilliant providers of Customer Service deciding how to make the best of their two cultures and models. Amazon/Zappos going into the clothing business…. Watch out friends. This is close to a sure thing. And we will be seeing it as it develops. I believe we have a winner. Other retailers better watch this model develop and try to at least stay close in the race for the consumer spending dollar. Both Amazon and Zappos have saved me money and delivered quality merchandise. I expect it to only get better.

Liz Crawford
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

I think that Amazon is currently geared toward the middle market for clothes…going upscale will be the trick. But they do have something in their favor–the recession. As recovery slowly warms buyers up, they may have become accustomed to Amazon for couture.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 10 months ago

There is a very good chance for success here as Amazon brings us online Haute Couture. Imagine the convenience for getting clothes you might want, in a very innovative and time saving way. America is changing the way it shops, and for specialty items, Amazon delivers many best practices for its shoppers.

The purchase decision is easier when delivered to your home; allows for a much better experience–choose what works and return if necessary. Will be interesting to see what unfolds!

Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
Guest
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
10 years 10 months ago

Stores can compete successfully with online, but they must have a high-quality online presence to do so. They must match everything that Amazon provides and more. First and foremost is a seamless online/in-store environment and experience.

Phil Rubin
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Amazon is the best retailer in the world, as I’ve suggested here before. They have consistently focused on the customer and that starts with their leadership. Bezos is more obsessed with thinking about customers than just about any other retail CEO, perhaps save someone named Nordstrom.

Given their ability to test, learn and leverage customer data, they can sell just about anything. Combining the insights from Zappos with other offerings like Amazon Prime will lead to significant competition for both traditional (brick-and-mortar) soft goods/fashion merchants as well as the newer ones focused online.

The onus is going to be on the companies with real customer relationships to protect those against Amazon. Many years ago, Macy’s CEO espoused being able to “feel the merchandise” and that is still very true. However many haute couture customers have more money than time, and Amazon is going to take advantage of that opportunity better and bigger than anyone.

Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
10 years 10 months ago

In this time-pressed society with the need for instant gratification, why believe that the originator of internet shopping and a Zappos platform would not be a great success? Books from Amazon (never mind adding in the whole Kindle model), clothes from retailers like JC Penney to Victoria’s Secret, to toys from Toys “R” Us, the entire shopping model is transitioning to more “not in the store” purchasing.

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

I do believe that Amazon can significantly grow this business, and even “set the standard by which consumers judge all others in the space.”

But at the same time, I don’t believe it will have that much of an impact on traditional retailers. I think that the fit and feel is not only an important part of the purchase decision, but so is the entire shopping experience. This is especially true for the upscale luxury clothing marketing. It’s not just about the clothes, and you can’t capture that online.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Zappos has thrived because of superior technology and a relentless pursuit of excellent service, including free two-way shipping. There’s no question that most apparel retailers have fallen down in both of those areas. Traditional retailers: it’s not too late to enhance your systems and business processes!

Dave Wendland
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Amazon is Amazin’!

I do believe they can be successful with this new venture. Overnight success? No. It will take serious ‘measuring’ and ‘tailoring’ to replicate what has been accomplished with their current goods and services…but they are a smart bunch with strong technology, solid shopper loyalty and terrific databases. I think high-end clothing could be a great fit for continued expansion.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
10 years 10 months ago

Jeff Bezos built the behemoth by following Walt Disney’s principal, when 90% of the people tell you not to do something you do it.

Almost every post on this topic has supported the idea, so maybe Amazon should re-think this venture.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

So Amazon will be skimming the bottom off where Nordstrom and Saks have drawn the line–at returns. Especially after having been worn for a night on the town.

Good luck but I think high sales numbers–if even possible–will be hampered with these high and costly returns. That is, unless they mark the items up enough to account for that which seems dubious.

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 10 months ago
I have no doubt that Amazon (and Zappos) have the business acumen and the customer relationship rigor to do a good job in whatever category they choose to play. However, a recent experiment to expand beyond shoes and order a few higher-end apparel items on Zappos.com recently left me with a distinct impression that they don’t really understand the feeling a shopper needs when the package arrives and the apparel goes on the body. All the fit advice aside, the items I received were so wrinkled and squashed up in plastic bags that my first impression negated all the convenience factors I’ve come to love. I could barely bring myself to try on the items. Having spent some time in the apparel and accessories business, I understand that when women try on higher-end apparel, we seek a mental and emotional picture of ourselves in “another place,” where we feel special and empowered to move forward with confidence and pride. Pulling wrinkled and squashed up high-end apparel out of a brown box, then a plastic bag… Read more »