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Amazon wants to accomplish a nearly impossible task, and it’s already plagued with problems

22 February 2016

From Business Insider:

Amazon is determined to take over the apparel industry.

The brand is scooping up talented people in the fashion world for roles on its merchandising teams. And now there is widespread speculation the brand will start its own clothing label.

“When we see gaps, when certain brands have decided for their own reasons not to sell with us, our customer still wants a product like that,” Jeff Yurcisin, Amazon Fashion’s vice president of clothing, said at a conference in October.

But Amazon’s foray into apparel retail won’t come easy.

For starters, the entire clothing industry is in crisis.

Macy’s is closing 40 stores in the beginning of this year. Nordstrom just reported disappointing earnings. And once beloved mall stores like Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale are struggling to stay relevant.

Analysts at RBC Capital Markets believe that these struggles are part of a larger trend in retail, as more customers shop online instead of in stores. Shoppers are also increasingly unwilling to shell out for expensive apparel, deciding instead to spend their money on electronics and restaurants.

. . . .

“There has been lot of speculation on us entering the luxury market and that is just not something that we’re focused on right now,” Perry said. “What we are focused on is developing an experience for our large customer base. That customer seems to have a great appetite for many things.”

Instead, the company has secured partnership brands mid-tier brands such as Lacoste and Theory, according to Business of Fashion. The fashion site also noted Amazon is focusing on enhancing the user experience, as Amazon’s front-end is not tailored to suit selling high-fashion products.

Link to the rest at Business Insider

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37 Comments to “Amazon wants to accomplish a nearly impossible task, and it’s already plagued with problems”

  1. I can’t recall where [*] I saw a recent article on fashion, saying precisely that a good deal of the trouble was old brands not being able to supply to demand but only following the old season development model. A&Finch were named.

    So… Fashion on Demand, logistics… Yes, amazon would have a lot of trouble with that.

    Take care

    [*] Found! http://www.businessinsider.com.au/social-media-is-killing-traditional-retailers-2016-2

    • Yeah, they can get ‘dumb’ about seasons and locations. I’m in south Texas, where we’ve had a very warm ‘winter’. Can I find any box store selling lightweight shirts? nope …

      • So true. I’m in Florida. Can I tell you how ridiculous and wasteful it was for someplace like Macy’s to be running ads at Christmas time for heavy coats and scarves on TV in this market? It was over 80 here! You’d think they could tailor to the market better. By the same token, folks planning to head north for the holidays would find it impossible to find gloves or hats in physical stores here. Every single item of clothing I’ve purchased in the last 5 years has been bought online. I refuse to go in stores anymore.

      • That seems weird because up here in the cold north they’ve had swim suits out for sale since January. By June they’ll all be gone, for some odd reason.

    • Clothing seems like an area that’s ripe for automation. Instead of paying sweatshops in Asia to make millions of the same thing, shipping them around the world, and selling half of them at clearout prices because you need the space for new stock, make them locally on demand.

      I suspect only the low cost of said sweatshops has prevented that so far.

      • I just signed up with CreateShirt (a division of Amazon). I choose the trim size, color or BW, design on the front and back, and then their automated machine spits it out at the nearest Amazon Distribution Center and its at my door in two days… well, I hope this will be the reality soon. 🙂

        • Not quite that fast, but the historic clothing place Recollections.biz lets you choose the material for your dress-skirt-some blouses-vest and some of the trim. Takes about two months to arrive unless you pay for rush work, and you can have things omitted if you want (I get the lace left off the cuffs.) The quality is quite good, too. But it is not instant (alas. Or perhaps just as well for my bank account.)

  2. I’m trying to find the plague. Is the “won’t come easy” part considered to be a plague of problems?

    Ooooh. I could see them teaming up with books, making fashions based on the characters: “Wear the dress so-and-so wore to the dance in what’s-it-called”. “Wear the outfit so-and-so wore when she killed all those vampires.”

    As for Louis Vuitton not selling through them, well, duh. They only sell through their own stores.

    • Ooooh. I could see them teaming up with books, making fashions based on the characters: “Wear the dress so-and-so wore to the dance in what’s-it-called”. “Wear the outfit so-and-so wore when she killed all those vampires.”

      I’ve actually wanted to do that for a while. 🙂 Maybe someday…

    • Cosplaying for books? I love that idea. I’ve rarely gone to cons (once a Star Trek convention, once a comic/anime/game con), but I always wondered if the book-oriented ones had authors or fans who did that. My characters wear much cooler clothes than I do, I’d love to swan about in their threads.

  3. Remember when Amazon wanted to take over the retail book business and everybody laughed?

  4. Amazon keeps going into markets with ‘razor-thin’ profit margins – and making them work.

    And the retailers having trouble already in those markets scream and whine.

    Maybe we’ll finally get into the part where they have your current measurements, and the garment comes – in the right size! Returns may be a problem, but at least the clothes would have a chance of working for me.

    • Clothing usually has great margins: 50-70%. They can sell the stuff 1/3 off an still make money. The problem in apparel is the ever-changing fads that can leave a retailer with a boatload of clothes that are already out-of-style before it can be unloaded and sent to the stores.

      Why do you think Wal-Mart and Target feature clothes so prominently at the front of the store? They want you to impulse buy on your way back to all the other departments that are behind the clothes.

      Which is just that much more of a reason for Amazon to conquer this market too.

  5. Yes, one thing I noticed here in frozen Michigan: I used to be a playground supervisor, and you know one thing kids do ALL THE TIME? They lose their mittens.

    So I liked to keep a pocket full of mittens to hand out when necessary. This was about 15-20 years ago, and I noticed that every year, the stores removed mittens from their shelves earlier and earlier. They soon had them on close out in JANUARY. Kids need mittens at least until March, and they LOSE mittens most when the weather starts to warm up a little.

    With Amazon, I can buy mittens in June. (Which, admittedly, I don’t do. But I do sometimes buy them in March because I live in a college town and college students are no better than grade school kids, and sometimes I have to just pull the car over and hand mittens to them.)

    Or my own problem, I have health issues that require me to use a pool for exercise. I could only get the swimwear and robe and such from AMAZON, in the fall when I started. Now that local retail has begun carrying summer swim things again (in February?), I don’t need them. Thanks anyway!

    Which is to say: Amazon is already in the clothing business.

  6. If Amazon steps into the huge breach left by malls, they’ll be doing many of us a service. Item: I’m 64, short-round, and look ridiculous in teenagers’ clothing. Yet teenagers’ clothes are all the local mall carries. I know I am not their target market; but I’ve always hoped at least one store might survive that doesn’t cater to the svelte under-25s.

    • Oooh. Can you see it now? “AmazonBasics: The Office Wardrobe”, “Amazonbasics: Interview Ensembles”, “AmazonBasics: Casualwear for over-30”

      • From your keyboard to Jeff’s eyes. Or ears. I don’t care, so long as he makes this happen 🙂

        The only addition: a machine to take your measurements so you won’t have to worry if the clothes will fit. It would upload them as an avatar that would model the clothes for you … oh I wish the 21st century would start already. If we can’t have moon colonies and flying cars, at least let us have a futuristic shopping experience.

  7. A number of times in the past, I’ve thought to myself—with all the information that Google has available to it about what people care about and want, they could make a killing on just about anything they want. Never mind search. Well, then comes Amazon.

    For starters, the entire clothing industry is in crisis . . . closing stores. . . disappointing earnings . . . struggling to stay relevant.

    Well, ddduhhh?

  8. This kind of reminds me of how, at the time Amazon decided to start selling e-books, pretty much every major book retailer had given up on them, including Barnes & Noble. The publishers barely even paid Amazon any attention beyond pushing the standard e-book contracts at them and then turning back to ragging on Google for scanning without permission. They’d basically given up on the idea of e-books ever becoming more than a curiosity so didn’t think it was worth paying Amazon’s efforts any extra attention.

    And now look at them.

  9. The article doesn’t even seem to pay attention to it’s own arguments…

    1. But Amazon’s foray into apparel retail won’t come easy.

    [struggles enumerated]

    2. Analysts at RBC Capital Markets believe that these struggles are part of a larger trend in retail, as more customers shop online instead of in stores.

    Point 2 says that customers are shopping online more. That includes Amazon, right? So, how does point 1 follow?

  10. Point 2 says that customers are shopping online more. That includes Amazon, right? So, how does point 1 follow?

    Whale Logic.

    • Some of is Whale Shopping too. More than 50% of women in the US are bigger than a size 16, but plus sizes get less than 20% of the retail space (maybe less than 10%, it’s some ridiculous number) in physical malls. Big customers have to buy online. Not only does physical retail space not meet our needs as customers, it’s not unheard-of to be actively humiliated in some fashion boutiques when accompanying a thinner friend shopping.

      Victoria’s Secret I am looking at you….just saying.

      • The logic behind that ratio, whether correct or not, is that heavier people buy less clothing, and buy it less often.

        Of course, even if this is true, it could still be the cart leading the horse. I went to buy a suit at JCPENNEY last year… and it was quite embarrassing for me. Very, very little that fit me off the rack. Its not an experience I care to repeat.

  11. Just as self-publishing has changed the publishing industry, thanks to Amazon and computers, clothes made by individuals or very small companies could change the clothing industry. Industrial-type sewing machines, such as sergers, coverstitch machines, and sophisticated electronic sewing machines, –along with the excellent advice available online–have changed the home sewing market.

    Many people now find it easier and quicker to make their own clothes than to fruitlessly search in stores for affordable clothing that fits and looks good. If Amazon makes it possible for these sophisticated home-sewers to market their clothes online, home-sewers may be able to build a profitable dressmaking business.

    • What happens when you add a 3D printer to the mix for custom buttons, zippers etc? I see that being quite an opportunity for a small clothing business. A 3D printer is cheaper than most of those sewing machines already…

      • Yes. People have been afraid of automation because they think it will eliminate manufacturing jobs, but, in reality, it’s going to make most manufacturing local again, as it was prior to the industrial revolution that centralized it in massive factories.

  12. what we need is a 3-d scanner (think the airport scanners) that can read your measurements at a local mall/outlet, then an online store that will show you your body with the cloths on them (not some anorexic or bodybuilder teen wearing that style) and then let you order then shipped to you.

    whoever can do this will make a killing. My money is on Amazon

    • A smartphone app should be able to do that. You would not need to scan yourself all the time – it would just remember your settings.

      • most smartphone apps are merely repackaged web pages.

        I’m not saying you would need to scan yourself for every purchase, but rather scan yourself when you find that what you are buying doesn’t fit well and then be able to make multiple purchases from there, being able to see how the styles look on you.

        ideally you should be able to tweak the styles (this shirt but with longer tails, this skirt, but 3 in longer, etc)

    • This.

      So much this. I have believed for a long time that custom clothing would be quite possible with globalization and international shipping. And honestly, I would pay more for something that really fits (I’m one of the short, round people, ahem), instead of having to compromise color and fit with that chains offer.

      I don’t want to buy jeans that have been subjected to abraisive blasting, for example, because that’s very unhealthy to the poor people doing the blasting. But at the moment, that’s practially all I can get. I want more choice, more colors (where are my purple jeans!), and better fit.

      I believe Amazon can make that happen, simly because they don’t care about old-fashioned rules in any business. “But we’ve always done it that way” is not an acceptable argument for them.

  13. I see very strong parallels between that (village scale/individual manufacturing) and independant publishing.

  14. I’m not sure what problems the plague brought.

  15. More ADS. Yawn…

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