Why aren’t women buying Amazon’s private label clothing?

Discussion
Source: Amazon.com
Nov 06, 2018
Matthew Stern

Of all the categories being hit hard by the entry of Amazon.com, apparel is one often perceived as topping the list. But Amazon’s private label women’s apparel doesn’t seem to be giving other clothing retailers as much trouble as some experts have projected.

According to the data analysis firm Jungle Scout, apparel represents 88 percent of all of Amazon’s private label brands, but only one percent of its own brand sales. And four out of five Amazon women’s private label apparel brands are selling fewer than 100 items each month, reports Bloomberg.

Despite these numbers, CNBC reports, there’s evidence that Amazon sees a lot of private label product in its future. The e-tail giant has continued to expand the number of private label brands on its website. It has also begun promoting its private label brand alternatives on the listings of competitive products and launched a program to allow third parties to create products specifically for Amazon’s private label collections.

While the private label pieces might not be grabbing women apparel shoppers’ attention, Amazon is still giving brick-and-mortar apparel retail a run for its money. For instance, a survey from Coresight earlier in 2018 indicated that a significant percentage of money spent on apparel at Target was being shifted over to Amazon.

But rather than private labels, the top brands sold on Amazon were Nike, Under Armour and Hanes, according to the Star Tribune.

Potential competition from Amazon’s private labels hasn’t prevented some retailers from availing themselves of the e-tailer’s unparalleled reach. Flagging mall brand J.Crew, for instance, recently began selling its products on the Amazon Marketplace.

Amazon has also taken other steps to get its clothing in the hands of customers. It recently expanded its Prime Wardrobe program, which allows Prime members shopping for apparel to try on and return clothing for free, to the U.K. 

Thus far Amazon has not leveraged its relationships with brick-and-mortar retailers like Kohl’s to gets its private label products on physical shelves. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that Amazon’s struggling private label women’s apparel sales are disruptive to its own brand clothing strategy? What do Amazon’s challenges in this segment mean for rival players in women’s apparel?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Amazon’s stealthy, large-scale private brand deployment may be backfiring – diluting the impact of the overall portfolio."
"The evidence belies, Amazon really is only paying lip-service to private brands. No worries for rival players!"
"Women do not buy clothing the same way we buy electronics or household goods. Hardlines are easy to buy on Amazon, but apparel is another story."

Join the Discussion!

21 Comments on "Why aren’t women buying Amazon’s private label clothing?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

There are several issues here. The first is that while online sales of apparel have grown, a lot of that growth has come from well-known brands and well-known private labels that consumers are confident about buying online. Amazon’s own clothing does not fit into either of these categories.

The second thing is that the Amazon site is not fully optimized for selling apparel. The layout and general clutter hinder browsing and the amount of choice is overwhelming. From our research, we have found a lot of women will search for specific items — like Nike tops, etc. — on Amazon and then browse a bit. As Amazon’s own brands are not as well known, they do not benefit from this search-based approach.

The final factor is that Amazon does not curate clothing selections very well. Its fashion pop-up in London is an example of this. It is OK but the general consensus is that it is underwhelming and doesn’t disrupt anything that other apparel players are doing.

Scott Norris
Guest

I’ve been rather frustrated when trying to shop for men’s dress shirts and sport coats on Amazon; the page layouts are nothing like what I’m used to on, well, virtually every clothing merchant! Where are the sizing selections, sleeve length, color option buttons? And this is for products that *could* be about as cookie-cutter as they get.

Jeff Sward
Guest

In a word — competition. Look at the vast menu both men and women can choose from. I’m a big believer in private label products when they actually solve a problem or fill a void. But apparel is a little trickier than paper towels and batteries. What was the void they thought they were filling? What was so compelling about their brand promise(s) that customers were going to leave current favorites?

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust
I’ve spent many years of my career being accused of being naïve to how cut-throat business can be. This is a prime example. Why, Amazon, is it important that you repeat the war so stifling us inside of brick-and-mortar walls? The one where everyone is trying to play nice but, deep down, the manufacturer knows that their retail “partner” would quickly crush them to get their product market share as their own—via their private label? The one where they are watching every move their “client’s” customer is making so that they can swoop in and snag them for their own? Amazon has shown their cards with their new private label mattress — half the price of Casper touting equal quality. Europe is already upset with them for watching successful emerging products hit, then replicating them and selling them cheaper. I can’t be neutral on this topic because I don’t WANT to buy their private label — I don’t need them to be one of the most formidable retail outlets out there and also the one… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

Amazon’s stealthy, large-scale private brand deployment may be backfiring – diluting the impact of the overall portfolio (not to mention other brands that sell on Amazon). J. Crew is actually selling a secondary brand on Amazon.com (Mercantile) rather than letting its flagship fly on the platform. More brands tell me that they are evaluating their plans with Amazon or at least putting in some reality checks in terms of volume potential.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

I agree with all my colleagues, and I would add that the unpredictability of sizing in women’s apparel hinders new labels. What exactly is a “medium?” Until women have experience with Amazon’s private label brands, and until they can find consistency in sizing, they’ll favor more familiar brands.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Amazon’s lagging sales for women’s private label apparel is likely due to brand non-awareness. The reason retailers need to be in-store is to create the visibility and brand awareness from shoppers seeing and trying on their apparel products. Amazon has very few in-store options which means the shopper has no intimate experience with the private label items. Rival players who have stores have a major advantage in the women’s apparel market.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

I remember when the theory that Amazon was dominating apparel began to grow that the category was really “apparel and accessories” where accessories were likely dominant in Amazon sales. So I’ve been skeptical of Amazon’s ability to dominate apparel for a very long time.

What’s happening here? Apparel is one of the critical areas where stores are needed for shoppers to test the fit of clothing and to build trust in that fit — before they are willing to order the brand online.

Even more, apparel is not easy. I had a client succeed with a tremendous fabric — but not used in clothes. They were attracted by the idea of clothing from the fabric and dashed off to be “the next Nike” and closed a big deal with Amazon to do it. And failed. Clothing is a very hard category — especially without stores.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Women do not buy clothing the same way we buy electronics or household goods. Hardlines are easy to buy on Amazon, but apparel is another story.

Too many women have been burned buying clothing via ads on social medias. We’re cautious. We like to know where the garments are made, the quality of the fabric, how the sizing runs, etc. We know what we’ll get with a name brand, but Amazon private label apparel is still a crap shoot.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Well, you don’t just create a private label and think people are going to just buy it unless it’s underwear or something like that. Do we not remember Walmart’s foray?

Also, I have bought Amazon private label cables and been way less than satisfied. They fall apart.

You don’t just snap your finger and create a brand. Plus, there is nowhere to touch or feel it.

I think it’s a zero.

Lisa Goller
Guest

Sure Amazon’s apparel results could use a boost, and ASOS, Boohoo and Zara might feel relieved for now. However Amazon’s always looking ahead, including adapting to two key trends:

  • Private label as a differentiator: More retailers (including Walmart and Target) are turning to private labels to deliver exclusive products that can enhance loyalty, especially since loyalty toward national brands is fading. Private brands have evolved into brands in their own right, and private label helps to distinguish Amazon’s assortment from rivals’.
  • Voice shopping: Voice-driven purchases are poised to explode from $2 billion today to $40 billion by 2022, so private labels in apparel and other categories will give Amazon a huge edge. When voice shoppers make a first-time purchase without specifying a brand, Alexa recommends Amazon’s most popular private label products first.

That’s why Amazon’s apparel strategy is a wise medium-term investment that acknowledges how consumer behavior is evolving due to a growing desire for convenience, ease and time savings.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Private label apparel works for department stores and other retailers, for example, because they have the product in stores and shoppers can touch, feel, and try it on for fit. That establishes trust in the private label brand and then they will be willing to buy it online. Amazon doesn’t have that luxury, so they develop selling tools like Amazon Wardrobe to make it easy and “risk-free” to try their apparel. But this still requires a time commitment by shoppers and they may be reluctant to do so. As others here have stated, just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come! Amazon has to invest in marketing their apparel labels to build a customer base that trusts the brand. It’s just not as easy as batteries and cables!

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Lark and Ro, like all Amazon private label brands, are knock-offs of decade-old basic styles like the DVF wrap dress for example. Amazon private brands are not brands; rather Amazon is acting as a “jobber” manufacturing products, like many of its Amazon 3rd party vendors. In a digital selling environment, devoid of sensory cues, not many women want to buy an old looking dress for $37. The evidence belies, Amazon really is only paying lip-service to private brands. No worries for rival players!

Jeff Sward
Guest

Well said! “…acting as a jobber…” “…devoid of sensory cues…” Branding is an emotional process. At some point, they need to feel something about apparel. Not so much with paper towels and batteries.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Thanks, Jeff! Awesome, great response. I agree.

Al McClain
Staff

The case has been well made for Amazon’s lack of success in private label apparel, so far. And, there are other categories where they have not succeeded, so far. But, “so far” is not forever, and it strikes me that they are testing and learning. Eventually, they will address manufacturing and quality issues, as well as marketing. And, don’t be surprised if they acquire an apparel retailer (at a discount), that provides locations where shoppers can try Amazon apparel in-store before they buy.

Jeff Sward
Guest

Absolutely. Amazon won’t take this lying down. The easy path didn’t work, so now some actual branding needs to take place. Whether in-house or by acquisition, it is surely in our future. This is only a momentary respite for the branded apparel business.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

Great points Al. They are brilliant at this methodology–and they can be because taking initial losses at a new venture doesn’t bother them at all if the end game is clear. I think your theory is more than sound.

Jasmine Glasheen
Staff

What’s the lifestyle of Amazon’s private label brand? For men they offer value, and for some men that may be enough, but are Amazon’s private label price points low enough to beat out value retailers that actually offer brands — such as Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, and even brands like Express?

Customers can get value almost anywhere. Amazon needs to create a lifestyle that women want to buy into.

Liz Adamson
BrainTrust

Selling clothing is a different model then selling batteries and even diapers. Sizing and fit is often an issue and women will often gravitate to brands that they know fit them well and what size they should order.

Amazon does have its Prime Wardrobe program, where customers can have clothing shipped to them for no charge and return what they don’t need. That program has a potential to help overcome the fit issue, but it doesn’t solve the second problem of Amazon’s current browse structure.

It can be overwhelming to browse Amazon’s catalog to find that exact clothing style you are looking for. Clothing customers are often brand loyal simply because they know they’ll find a style they like and that it will fit them well.

Mark Price
BrainTrust

While it is relatively easy to compare private label with branded items in a grocery store and other stores with relatively generic products, fashion presents different challenges. In order to succeed with private label clothing, manufacturers have either had to go higher end or give consumers the ability to see the product in person.

It is clear that Amazon will continue to grow share of the fashion market, but largely in products that are very familiar to consumers today.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Amazon’s stealthy, large-scale private brand deployment may be backfiring – diluting the impact of the overall portfolio."
"The evidence belies, Amazon really is only paying lip-service to private brands. No worries for rival players!"
"Women do not buy clothing the same way we buy electronics or household goods. Hardlines are easy to buy on Amazon, but apparel is another story."

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is it that Amazon's private label apparel will soon catch on with women?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...