Amazon unveiled a new private label line of handbags and shoes dubbed “The Fix” on Wednesday, reported Footwear News. The collection adds to the retailer's private label apparel program, which includes lingerie.
The line, which launched Tuesday, is available only to Amazon Prime members, demonstrating the retailer's dedication to providing more benefits for this loyal customer base. Amazon didn't immediately return Retail Dive's request for more details.
This move continues Amazon's push into apparel, coming hard on the heels of the company's new Prime Wardrobe service, where Prime members can order three items or more with no upfront charge and take a week to decide and pay for those they’d like to keep.
Amazon is becoming a force in apparel: 46% of consumers surveyed by Morgan Stanley earlier this year said they'd purchased clothes on Amazon over the last 12 months, falling behind only Walmart at 60%. Adding to that, 47% of "likely" Amazon shoppers say they expect to buy more apparel on Amazon and fewer clothes at other retailers over the next 12 months.
The retailer has made a bet that younger shoppers will buy clothes with less regard for their labels. Last year Amazon quietly launched seven new private label brands, with offerings that include men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, men’s dress shoes, and men’s and women’s accessories.
The e-commerce giant also appears to be cognizant of how fast-fashion supply chains have allowed those retailers to lure shoppers from specialty apparel merchants and department stores. Amazon was awarded a patent for "a system of on demand apparel manufacturing [that] includes a textile printer, textile cutter, and a computing device" that could be used to make apparel or textile home goods. The patent describes a system that could batch orders according to a variety of categories, like type or delivery address, to improve efficiency of manufacture and order fulfillment.
That fits with Amazon’s data-based approach to retail in general and addresses one of the most vexing aspects of apparel retail — a high level of returns, especially in e-commerce, where customers don’t have the benefit of trying on goods before they buy. In fact, former Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren last year expressed some skepticism about reports that Amazon would do all that well in apparel sales, saying the company is "going to have an interesting challenge when they start getting all those returns coming back online.”
Still, Amazon is hard pressed to address the fickleness of the apparel consumer, who may yet change their mind even when a shirt is made to order. And many consumers, including the very young members of Generation Z, still prefer to try on clothes in stores and appreciate the immediate touch, fit and feel opportunities and the satisfaction of walking out with a new clothing purchase. This means that apparel retail may eventually be part of Amazon's nascent but expanding brick-and-mortar strategy.
In a survey of more than 2,500 U.S. consumers, global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney found that among those who prefer to buy online, fully two-thirds say they still rely on a physical store either before or after their purchase. "That means that when you’re buying a dress online, it’s likely that you’re going to be looking at that dress — the feeling, the color — and to do that, you leverage a physical environment prior to the purchase," Andres Mendoza Pena, a partner in A.T. Kearney’s retail practice, told Retail Dive earlier this year.