Amazon is undoubtedly a threat to all parts of the retail industry. Whichever part of the sector it turns its gaze on will inevitably come under pressure and right now it has fashion firmly in its sights. To this end it has invested in an extensive photo studio and appointed fashion writing specialists that have strong social media credentials.
Although no clothing and accessories retailers should be complacent about Amazon’s well telegraphed aspirations for growing its fashion business there are reasons why the incumbents should not be overly worried. The reality is – fashion is not like other parts of the industry.
In a recent report City research house Bernstein put forward some examples of how Amazon would find it tough to disrupt the fashion industry in the same way that it has caused serious ructions in other categories.
In contrast to other types of product, fashion changes very frequently. This is not only seasonal as fast fashion has changed irrevocably the frequency with which customers now demand new lines and ranges.
Many fashion brands – including the fast fashion brethren like H&M and Zara – are vertically integrated, which gives them sourcing flexibility and controls over pricing. They do not want to supply third-parties like Amazon that could undermine them by price-cutting.
The other aspect against Amazon is its inconsistent approach to fulfillment. It does not offer the same delivery options across the different brands it stocks. This is because it has different supply agreements with the individual fashion brands. Some are fulfilled by Amazon while others are delivered to the customer directly from the brand owner.
Amazon also suffers from the overall experience it delivers to fashion customers on its site. It has a paucity of decent content and the look and feel of its online proposition is not in keeping with the glitzy affairs provided by specialist fashion sellers and brand owners.
While none of these aspects are insurmountable for Amazon – that enjoys both financial firepower and a willingness to wait a prolonged period of time before any profits filter through – it is questionable whether the company would see sufficient long term value in the category when it has so many other potentially easier targets with which to aim its resources.
Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider
K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.