Amazon says first clothing store will be a fashion and technological revelation

Discussion
Photos: Amazon
Jan 21, 2022

Amazon.com has become the biggest apparel seller in the U.S. without any stores. Now it plans to open its first clothing store this year under the Amazon Style banner.

The 30,000-square-foot store featuring men’s and women’s apparel, shoes and accessories will open in Glendale, CA, at The Americana at Brand, a large dining, shopping and residential complex that boasts A list retailer tenants including Apple, lululemon, Nike, Nordstrom, Sephora and Tiffany. Amazon also operates one of its 4-Star stores in the Glendale facility.

Amazon says the Style store will offer a great selection at low prices (the same as offered online) with an in-store shopping experience that is convenient and “built to inspire.”

The store will feature both top popular brands and new designer fashions with prices ranging from $10 to $400. Amazon did not detail specific labels it plans to sell in the store nor what role its private brands will play in its mix.

Customers will use their Amazon Shopping app to select clothing they want to try on from a QR code connected to the item. Selected items are delivered to a designated fitting room where customers may also use a personalized touchscreen to browse for more choices, rate items and have additional pieces brought to them to try on. They can have items they want to purchase brought directly to the pickup counter.

Amazon says the location will offer more than double the number of styles found in traditional clothing stores of the same size.

The new concept is built upon machine learning algorithms, according to the retailer, that “produce tailored, real-time recommendations for each customer as they shop.”

Amazon says the new Style store will provide customers with more options for discovering and purchasing items, including the ability to shop online and then try pieces on at the store as well as discover items in the store and purchase them later online.

The planned opening of the Amazon Style store appears to confirm reports from last summer that the company was planning to take on department stores with a new physical concept. Those reports said Amazon would open its new format in California and Ohio. Management has not provided any detail on where or how many Style stores it plans to open.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s your reaction to the Amazon Style store concept? Do you think it will prove popular and, if so, how do you expect its competitors to react?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Amazon will need to have enough employees to promptly pick and deliver app orders to fitting rooms and checkout counters; otherwise, this concept won’t work."
"The real question is, should leading brands play ball with Amazon stores?"
"Looking at the video, Amazon is replacing traditional sales associates with an app and a powerful recommendation engine."

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45 Comments on "Amazon says first clothing store will be a fashion and technological revelation"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

This is a very interesting concept, and the cornucopia of tech enabled services make it among the most advanced apparel stores I’ve seen. While I have no doubt that Amazon can bring the technology – and this will most certainly be attractive to some consumers – the fashion still has to resonate and no algorithm can pick winners (yet).

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust
With the opening of the “Amazon Style” format, Amazon will now be offering a wide range assortment from the $10 basic to the designer jeans to the $400 timeless piece. There will be elements of the traditional department store. However the connected experience is extremely dependent on the consumer’s smartphone, as the interaction is all around the QR code experience. A few things to consider: The department store segment has been facing challenges for well over a decade; There are signs of a slight renaissance in the department store segment with the innovations that Nordstrom has put forth with their curated assortments, personalization, restaurants, cafes, and a customer-first strategy; Amazon enters a department store arena that is congested, competitive, and fighting for relevance in a disrupted pandemic economy. What will distinguish the Amazon format from the competition as these formats roll out? Will it truly be an immersive, digitally connected experience? Will there potentially be a Prime-like loyalty program and competitive pricing? How big will this potentially scale to? So many questions. It will be… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

While department stores are experiencing that slight renaissance, Amazon is building the future store. As digitally savvy younger generations take over the shopping experience, there will be no patience for shopping in a department store.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Yes, please bring on the department store of the future. We all want convenience, powered by QR codes, connected commerce, touchless payment options, integrated loyalty programs, augmented reality. Bring it on and at scale profitably.

It’s not just the younger generations that want this. Older generations that continue to evolve, pivot, and embrace new technologies and have abandoned department stores want this type of experience as well.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Good point. I am of an older, older generation and I want it. Maybe I am evolved?

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Indeed you are, Gene. The acceleration of innovative technologies requires us to evolve and pivot how we live, shop, and engage.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Gene, without a doubt!

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

As Mark Ryski also said, the tech is great — but if the assortments don’t resonate, the store will not thrive. Only time will tell if Amazon can effectively curate its assortments to align with the local clientele.

Scott Norris
Guest

3-D printing and weave-to-order looms, plus current dye-sublimation technology, might allow for leapfrogging right over what Amazon is planning. Then it comes down to the quality of design and execution, a very local/tribal experience that busts up “mass” retail. We’re starting to see this in food with flour micro-milling units, for instance.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I think it will attract people to the novelty initially. Will they prefer to shop by scanning a QR code and not carrying their size to the fitting room? I think this is more a learning lab for Amazon to see how people move in the space than anything. The potential from the video seems to be a lonely shopping experience in a warehouse.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

I agree that this is a learning opportunity. It will be really interesting to see this develop.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
It was only a matter of time before Amazon took on brick-and-mortar in new categories. They obviously made their first move in grocery with Whole Foods, and then their Amazon 4-star concept, but this is a different animal. Fashion is a tricky business, getting the right people has never been harder, they will certainly have the technology down pat so they will succeed in proving that stores still have a life. From a data collection standpoint, this store will do what retail has been trying to do for decades: understand what the customer wants and how they make actual purchase decisions. Imagine Amazon’s real-time recommendation engine brought to life in a store. And because customers will be using the Amazon app to scan QR codes of everything they’re interested in, Amazon will be collecting amazingly detailed data on conversion rates. They will, of course, also be able to correlate prior online interest by the customer in the same or similar products and track what the customer is looking for after they leave the store. This… Read more »
Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

I liked this idea when Reformation did it too, nice. Showroom stores are a perfect match for apparel and the lack of them (Bonobos?) says more than the presence of this one. But let us not forget; whiz bang really works with commodities (food) but in this instance, you have to have the right fashion, which is a whole other ballgame and much harder to do than an algorithm. Just ask Gap.

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust
The hype will wear off quickly on this concept and shoppers will go in out of curiosity and Amazon will learn about what products are creating interest/excitement vs. collecting dust. This is an experiment. So Amazon can learn about fashion because they can’t seem to get it right. Why haven’t we heard much from their luxury push? Is Oscar still selling on Amazon? Has it devalued the luxury brands that signed up? When I lived in London in 2017, Amazon Fashion went on a recruiting spree (I considered it) and then crickets. No one I know stayed in their roles and it seemed like a joke in the industry. Last thought – I’m all for the showroom experience but why such a huge physical footprint? Why not go in hyper-local and pop-up in communities to test, learn, and excite? Take a book out of the pop-ups in Shoreditch (East London) or cool spots around fashion forward cities like NYC/Tokyo or even perhaps a limited time partnership with a relevant department store. Why go so big?… Read more »
Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Great perspective as always, Liza! The Amazon hype machine thrives on publicity. Any publicity is good publicity for Amazon.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I love the fact that Amazon is taking merchandising risks as well as pushing the envelope with digital and tech shopping. Normally I would say the broad price range lacks focus. But here I think it has the potential to make the shopping experience really unique. Plus it offers a data gathering mechanism other retailers don’t have.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust
This story has been everywhere today. So with some extra time to think about it, I will add: It’s also a test of store size. Google says a big Gap store is 18,000 sq. ft. A small Kohl’s store is 35,000 sq. ft. Medium Kohl’s = 50,000 sq. ft. Big Kohl’s = 80,000 sq. ft. Google also says Kohl’s is looking to shrink its average footprint because the bigger store just aren’t as productive as they used to be. No surprise there. So if Amazon is looking 5-10 years out (and they are) they are probably looking for what kind of physical footprint is optimal for selling apparel. A big Gap or a small Kohl’s sounds like a pretty good place to start. My guess is that Amazon has a series of iterations they can run through this footprint to test a number of scenarios for both Product and Process. This test could be an appetizer for what they could accomplish with a slam dunk Kohl’s acquisition. JCP was too much space in a dying… Read more »
Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

I don’t doubt that Amazon will bring technology to this store concept, and will generate imitators just like Amazon Go. But 30,000 square feet is not a lot — yes, much more than most specialty apparel stores but less than a store like Macy’s or Kohl’s with a broader assortment of clothing. Amazon will have a challenge offering the breadth of selection seen on its website while also trying to provide a more curated offering in limited space.

The slow rollout of most other Amazon brick-and-mortar concepts so far suggests some patience with their latest concept.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Hi-tech doesn’t always solve the consumer’s quest for an immersive fashion experience that lends itself to touch, feel, and emotion. This is another one of Amazon’s “labs” in which they’ll test, trial, fail fast and develop new models that can be applied to all parts of their vast retail empire.

Kathleen Fischer
BrainTrust

It’s an interesting concept, really bringing digital capabilities to the physical store to enhance the customer experience. The question will be whether it’s a strong enough model to expand to other locations once the novelty wears off.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

For once, I’m excited about an Amazon brick-and-mortar initiative. This will be a great learning opportunity for other apparel brands. I just wonder how in-store browsing will play a role versus browsing on the app while in stores. A major reason the Amazon apparel section does so well is because of how effectively the search results match what shoppers are seeking. I’m curious to see how that’s simulated in these stores.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Sweet: AI is our fashion stylist.

Apparel leader Amazon wisely expands its physical presence to ensure fit and satisfaction, and reduce returns and delivery costs. It’s interesting that the assortment spans tiers that range from value to premium, maximizing the target audience.

Data-driven decisions about our duds will make shopping at Amazon Style more personalized, efficient and easy. If Amazon consistently delivers these benefits, it will prove popular.

In response, competitors will certainly emphasize the human connection they strengthen in their stores. They will also likely invest in in-store tech like virtual fitting rooms and QR codes to drive efficiencies and personalize the customer experience.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust
There’s a lot about this that I don’t (excuse the pun) buy. 30,000 square feet is kind of weird “tweener” size. It’s too big to be small and too small to be big. As Mr. Bruno said, it’s all about the assortment. I’m surprised the store is that size, as they won’t be able to do much fulfillment or returns processing in it. I simply don’t know what they’re thinking. I can see others think it’s an interesting concept. I don’t think it’s doable today. It’s a distraction from other things Amazon has done that aren’t so great or noble. It sounds like a mishmash of stuff that’s going to get personalized. Clothing isn’t about tech. It’s about STYLE. So when I see it actually working for more than three months, I’ll be happy to say I was wrong. (For what it’s worth, I was wrong about the tablet computer, and said so, though it does seem to have a shorter life of coolness than expected). Overall, I have to say I think they won’t… Read more »
Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

This. They are trying to be all things to all people. Unless they have an entire Amazon warehouse of clothing attached to the store, I don’t see how this format will be something I would want to go to, and I am a very tech savvy guy.

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

Apparel stores have been attempting to incorporate online shopping into the in-store experience for years now with smart fitting rooms and QR codes. Conceptually, Amazon Style appears to merge the best of e-commerce and in-store shopping experiences. 

Amazon Style’s display model will allow for beautiful merchandising and easier order fulfillment. Plus, encouraging all shoppers to try items on may help reduce returns.

The biggest hurdle I see is staffing. Retailers across the country are experiencing staffing shortages, including Amazon. The premise of Amazon Style seems to be convenience and an elevated shopping experience, which can be very labor-intensive to execute. Amazon will need to have enough employees to promptly pick and deliver app orders to fitting rooms and checkout counters; otherwise, this concept won’t work.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Personally I’m keen to see this in action. I’m always a bit skeptical of any technology that adds friction to the shopping and check out process. But, in the fashion world, maybe the customer will appreciate the options and see this as adding value.

Bottom line, kudos to Amazon for continuing to look for ways to innovate and change the business. Even if this is a failure, the lessons will be really valuable for Amazon and the rest of retail who will be watching this very closely.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

The nature of fashion makes automating selection difficult. Despite online engagement and selection, it’s not the same when people have taken the time to travel to a destination to browse and select fashion. At Talbots, the key was associates and curation through engagement. The experience for the average customer here will be quite a lonely experience, missing the entire social scene when it comes to clothing selection. Even with popular assortments, fashion is not a tech play but a social one. The effort will drive a certain segment of customers, but competitors won’t mind as they sell differently and in a far more personally engaging manner. The fashion value will deteriorate without the social component.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The competition ought to take this seriously or they will no longer be the competition. This is or is close to being the future of retailing. The Amazon Style concept is a decade ahead of what we see now. The only question is, will legacy retailers be stuck in their idea of retailing as Amazon and others (check out Rebecca Minkoff) adapt to embrace a technology that fits the desires of the changing demographic?

Dion Kenney
BrainTrust
4 months 3 days ago

Amazon has demonstrated time and again that they want to redesign the retail industry. If we see them as “engineers” rather than as “competition” we can see that they are providing a masterclass in how to apply Fourth Industrial Revolution capabilities (software, data science, and connectivity) to an entire industry.

Will “Amazon Style” work? Yes! They will find the pieces that create value and accentuate them. They will identify the parts that don’t and either improve them or discard them. We can all learn and benefit from their efforts, a “second mover advantage,” if we can adopt and adapt at a sufficiently fast pace.

Other industries should take note as well!

Mohamed Amer, PhD
BrainTrust

Amazon’s core strength is technology and data. Looking at the video, Amazon is replacing traditional sales associates with an app and a powerful recommendation engine. Style choices, upsells, and cross-sells are enabled on your phone. The layout and flow are different from traditional department stores with more fitting rooms than usual. This model requires well-integrated and flawless backroom operations.

Not surprisingly, Amazon redefines apparel retailing using technology as the starting point and betting on curating the desired styles, colors, and sizes through algorithms and massive collected data. Labor content in this model is in backroom operations and, for now, at the checkout counter.

David Slavick
BrainTrust

For once an American based retail concept leverages advanced technology to connect the customer with seamless precision. I’ve always been frustrated with how slow retailers have been to adopt solutions that are available in order to test/learn and eventually roll out to the masses. Personally, I despise shopping in-store and try on rooms. But this experience is a surefire winner so long as the fashion remains on trend and the price/value is compelling.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

As is typical with Amazon, they have thought through the experience an apparel consumer would like to have in a retail store and are putting one store together. If it is successful, they will replicate the concept in other locations. Using the app to have items brought into the dressing room is a brilliant idea making it easy to transition from the online store to the dressing room. Having a touchscreen in the dressing room makes checking out additional apparel ideas easy. As Amazon makes the shopping experience easier, its competitors will respond.

Natalie Walkley
BrainTrust
Natalie Walkley
Director, enVista & Enspire Commerce OMS
4 months 3 days ago

Amazon for many shoppers is about convenience. This concept is the combination of convenience and a luxurious shopping experience. No carrying heavy hangers, no waiting for shipping, no counting items for a fitting room—the heavy “lifting” is done for you (including the styling!). And for Amazon sellers—no return shipping fees.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Somewhere, deep in the bowels of Amazon’s marketing department lives a master fly fisher-person. Whoever she, he, or it is knows how to cast media bait in exactly the right spot all of the time. Amazon Style is like everything else Amazon announces. At best it becomes a viable, sustainable, new revenue stream and another node on the already daunting network of connection points between Amazon and its customers. At worst it’s a learning laboratory, a small CAPEX experiment, reinforces the brand as a tech and retail leader and — oh, yeah — gets media attention. And like a big, fat, lazy rainbow trout sunning itself in the warm digital waters we all hit that lure every time.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

One of the better metaphors I have read in a very long time!

RandyDandy
Guest
4 months 3 days ago
Most if not all have mentioned staff, and what role(s) they may play in this enterprise. But none have expressed the inescapable toll it will take on each and every person working in this concept. However first, I congratulate Amazon on going forward with what was always a necessary part of their part in retail. Which is to take all they offer online to an in-store experience. Meanwhile, their 4-Star stores made the most sense: in that what items they sell are very easy to consider and, thus, to buy. (Oh, that device? I heard about that! Good price! Lemme take it.) Still, the main attraction was always going to be wearable items. Which are not so easy to buy just online (Oops, wrong fit!) and yet something altogether different to sell in a real store. Why so? Well, because clothing is all very much personality—and ego—driven. Regardless of things being sold in upscale or downmarket situations, it is about the “me” of the buyer. Plus, consider this: has anyone who has ever tried on… Read more »
Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

How many times has Amazon failed in any concepts beyond test market? A terrific combination of online technology with brick-and-mortar stores. I expect it will have universal appeal, but particularly to the younger generations. As for competitors, again Amazon has provided the clues to success. Ignore at your own peril.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Richard, I’d argue they have never failed. These “tests” may have not worked, but Amazon benefitted from all of them — some of which never got past the patent stage — in a variety of ways. I think that’s the whole point. You can’t think about Amazon, or any of its “tests” in traditional terms, but rather need to look at them in a broader, longer strategic arc, and then — and only then — judge their effectiveness.

David Mascitto
BrainTrust

The assortment and availability of brands is what will get people to come to the store–that or low prices/value. Without brands, it’ll be private-label city for Amazon, competing with the likes of George and Time and Tru, essentially an omnichannel-optimized Walmart, which would still viable for Amazon, just not brand-enhancing. The real question is, should leading brands play ball with Amazon stores?

storewanderer
Guest
4 months 3 days ago

Looks industrial and unappealing. I do not expect this to be a success from a direct sales perspective. It may make for a good showroom, though.

Many consumers want to inspect the construction of the garment they are purchasing as the sewing, etc. can be variable from piece to piece. This is part of what creates a chunk of online returns once people get something they are not satisfied with, how it is made.

This will also be incredibly efficient from an inventory management standpoint.

I like a lot of things about this from a business perspective but I don’t think it will go over well with customers.

Brian Kelly
Guest
4 months 3 days ago

I look forward to understanding how AMZN marshals its superior insight and addresses fit.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

When the back door is left open, slots of potential successors will sneak in, and someone will hit the opportunity in the bullseye. And if they are backed with big money like Amazon with brilliant people, when this concept hits the pavement and opens, I predict much free PR will abound as shoppers rush in. Oh yes, and incredible productivity will will take place. The kind most retailers dream of. But what would we expect? It’s Amazon! I for one can’t wait.

Allison McGuire
BrainTrust

I must admit, I’m not usually one to sing praises about Amazon, but this feels like a winning shopping experience. I think the cross-selling functionality is brilliant. You don’t always see everything in a store and with their tailored recommendations it’s like a personal shopper. How fast they can get the items in the dressing room when you’re done browsing will be important. You don’t want to stand around for 5-10 minutes waiting to try on your clothes.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

Amazon has once again demonstrated that they are light years ahead of their competitors. Amazon understands technical innovation. And they understand how to harness technological advancements to build stronger relationships with their customers. “Amazon Style” is one of the initiatives they will continue to improve in order to make their stores more relevant.

The modern customer is digitally savvy and prioritises convenience while shopping. So, Amazon’s Style stores will not only be popular with customers, but they will also become the bare minimum standard of in-store selling.

However, I doubt that retailers who failed to provide a seamless digital experience will ever be able to keep up with the retail industry’s lightning-fast pace of innovation.

Robin Gaster
Guest

Sounds just like Amazon in groceries, which will be an enormous and expensive failure. Technology-push projects at other companies have failed for decades … and there is no sign at all that Amazon has any significant competitive advantage in either fashion or bricks and mortar generally.

QR codes will transform B&M shopping? Really? Waiting for delivery to a dressing room is better than simply picking clothing off the rack?

Amazon will offer double the number of styles provided by competitors at similar size stores? So either it can magically create space in demand, or it will carry fewer sizes or fewer copies of each style. The former in particular is problematic.

This is Amazon looking for ways to grow the top line as that becomes more and more difficult (given the scale involved). And as with other B&M efforts ( eg Amazon Fresh), there is no evidence whatsoever that Amazon’s tech will tip the balance in a highly competitive environment in which all of Amazon’s real competitive advantages don’t apply.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Amazon will need to have enough employees to promptly pick and deliver app orders to fitting rooms and checkout counters; otherwise, this concept won’t work."
"The real question is, should leading brands play ball with Amazon stores?"
"Looking at the video, Amazon is replacing traditional sales associates with an app and a powerful recommendation engine."

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