Amazon has sent out notices to customers, including one seen by Retail Dive, from "Amazon.com / Fashion" offering discounts on “select clothing, shoes, jewelry, watches, and luggage sold directly by Amazon.”
The quite soft launch of Amazon's private labels includes at least seven fashion brands with about 1,800 SKUs, according to KeyBanc Capital analyst Ed Yruma, cited by Women's Wear Daily.
In addition to the items noted on Amazon’s own mailer, merchandise includes men’s dress shoes, suits and accessories, women’s casual and contemporary clothing, accessories, and children’s clothing.
Apparel has been something of a tough nut to crack for Amazon because many brands have been reluctant to cede marketing control and pricing to the e-commerce giant. This effort appears to be something of a “can’t beat em, join em” approach.
House brands from the e-commerce giant include Franklin & Freeman, Franklin Tailored, James & Erin, Lark & Ro, North Eleven, Scout + Ro, and Society New York.
But, while Yruma and others see a lot of potential for Amazon in this space, it will be tricky. While apparel sales remain a huge chunk of sales and even growth in retail, several brands have stumbled in their efforts to come up with merchandise that people want. Plus, there appears to be great truth to the idea that many consumers, including many younger ones, are opting to spend their money on experiences rather than stuff like clothes.
Perhaps Amazon’s rumored plans for more brick-and-mortar stores is part of this fashion effort, considering that apparel sales are especially tricky online. They are also expensive due to a high level of returns, the consequence of people not being able to try anything on until after they’ve paid for and received delivery of the items.
Yruma, for one, seems to think that Amazon is up to all those challenges.
"While apparel is one of Amazon’s fastest-growing categories, more work must be done for the business to scale," Yruma said in a research note, as reported by WWD. "We expect the challenges the company has faced in courting the fashion community to remain, but we think Amazon will continue to evolve its strategy. We believe greater brand cooperation with third-party seller restrictions and an owned brand approach (development of niche brands and private label) will be necessary to penetrate the apparel market in a more meaningful way.”