Amazon wants to wear the pants

QUICK CUTS: Models presenting creations by Indian fashion designers during the Amazon India Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2016 finale in New Delhi last month. The online retail giant is fast tracking its way into ready-to-wear fashion.


    Apr 04, 2016

    Amazon wants to wear the pants


    AMAZON has been making moves over the past few months to position itself as a force in the ready-to-wear fashion world.

    The Seattle-based online retail titan has already revolutionised how consumers shop and has been selling clothes for more than a decade.

    But its steps in recent months - some overt and others more under the radar - signal that Amazon is speeding up its foray into fashion.

    Early last month, Amazon launched a daily, free half-hour online show on fashion, its first-ever live-streaming programme.

    And the giant founded by United States entrepreneur Jeff Bezos has also begun airing The Fashion Fund, a reality show in which young designers face off in a competition sponsored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

    As for its more muted moves, these are visible on where new fashion labels have popped up that, it turns out, have been trademarked by the tech giant.

    The labels Lark & Ro, North Eleven and Franklin Tailored have been registered by Amazon over the past few months, according to data accessed by Agence France-Presse on the website of the European Union Intellectual Property Office.

    After focusing on clothes designed, made and sold by others, Amazon - whose revenue in 2015 passed the US$100 billion (S$135 billion) mark - is developing its own clothing lines.

    When contacted by AFP on the topic, Amazon declined to comment.

    "Amazon has made apparel a priority," analysts with KeyBanc Capital Markets wrote in a February research note after attending an apparel trade show in Las Vegas.

    Amazon is being viewed as a strategic opportunity and partner in the vendor community, they wrote, with some believing that "it can be a top three customer for them in the medium-term".

    Customers appear to like what's in the works. "There's... the ability to have the world at your fingertips in one place," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group.

    "Brand sites or traditional retail sites have limited offerings. Whereas when you look at Amazon, the offer of products is mind-boggling," he added. "The ability to reach across so many brands, so many styles, so many sizes, so many options, it gives a feeling of much greater opportunity to secure the product that you want."

    Amazon has the potential to make a significant mark on the fashion world, according to Mr Cohen. "There's plenty of opportunity to better what has been done by the fashion industry, from a basic, and also mid-level and even from a designer perspective," he noted.

    Analysts at the Cowen Group said in July that they expected Amazon to become the leading US apparel retailer by next year, ahead of Wal-Mart and Macy's.

    On a more international front, chains such as H&M and Zara also have reason to be concerned.

    If the inauguration late last year in Seattle of a brick-and-mortar bookstore is anything to go by, Amazon one day could decide to open ready-to-wear clothing stores.