Step by step, Amazon is building its Fashion business with the first “Amazon Fashion” Pop-up Store in Europe. I guess many others will open soon, and maybe, its first retail permanent store too. But, to succeed, Amazon will need to acquire much expertise in the fashion business industry.
The Pop-up store opened “5 days, 5 nights” last October in 35 Baker Street, London. The agenda of the event included denim customization by Pepe Jeans, DJ and acoustic sessions, after work yoga sessions, beauty makeovers by BlowOut Ibiza and Amazon Fashion Stylists support.
In terms of assortment, product was displayed according 3 main categories or shopping needs, both for men and women: The AW18 Hot Pieces edit, the workout Edit and the After-Dark edit. So, Casualwear, Gym gear and night out uniform. Also included accessories and lingerie.
What brands were sold?
Menswear brands: Tommy, Levi´s, Vans, The North Face, Eastpak, Libertine, G-Star, Puma, Hackett, Scotch & Soda, Gant, GEOX, Finds, New Balance…
Womenswear brands: Lost Ink, Filippa, Aurique, Puma, New Look, Dr.Martens, Gestuz, Aldo, Tommy, Vans, G-Star, Pretty Ballerinas, Calvin Klein, Scotch & Soda, Pepe Jeans…
According to Gartner L2, instead of grouping its private label fashion brands, Amazon plants them among products with similar price points such as Libertine, Gestuz, and Antik Batik.
Regarding Mobile commerce, “all products have either a red or cream tag with an Amazon Smile QR code on one side and a barcode on the reverse. Items with cream tags can be tried on in-store and scanned using the Amazon app on mobile devices to purchase immediately or save for later. While red tag items are exclusively available online. Mobile point of commerce is also available through store assistants”. (Gartner L2)
I couldn´t visit the pop-up but seeing the images and reading comments in social media, it looks that customer experience was not best-in-class (poor layout and visual merchandising work, with a low-quality or basic assortment, no scent?, …).
What are the challenges of Amazon Fashion going offline (omnichannel)?
First, selling fashion doesn´t mean selling “products”. If a customer searches for white socks to play tennis, it´s possible that any option will cover his needs. It´s like shopping water bottles as example of fast-rotation or low value-added category. It´s a fisiological need, at the bottom of Maslow´s pyramid. And this, it´s not fashion.
Online shopping is usefull because you can buy white socks, white t-shirts, water bottles, toilet paper and avoid waisting your time in a traditional store. Why a customer would go to an Amazon store if the assortment is covering only fisiological needs (affordable, basic clothing)? The lack of excitement when visiting Departments Stores shouldn´t be replicated as retail expansion needs a different approach.
There are examples of “apparel” retailers that sell clothing as Food retailers sell food. Their business model is similar, based in selling high-rotation, low-margin products. Those stores are full of stock and customer experience is non-existent. Low prices and promotions are the main drivers, like diapers in supermarkets. Amazon best-in-class operations management could replicate this model in a brick-and-mortar store, using its big data to improve assortment at location level, for example. But the question is: Does Amazon wants to be positioned as a high-end fashion marketplace/ retailer or a mass-market, basic retailer? Is Amazon the next “category killer” in apparel?
No Cool, No Fashion, No Offline
Palace London Shop
In Fashion, the sense of belonging and self-fulfillment drives sales. Amazon is not yet a destination for fashionable clothing, neither online or offline. Customers considers Amazon the Everything Store but Millennials want to feel part of a community, a brand (even niche brand) with a unique storytelling and visit curated unique stores (see Palace above). Even luxury retailers are trying to appear more sexy, less quality-boring driven, while embracing streetwear. Basics are not cool, and a store with a non-cool assortment has no sense today except for customers looking for low-prices.