Are Stitch Fix and Trunk Club toast?

Discussion
Image: Amazon
Jun 21, 2018
George Anderson

Prime Wardrobe, Amazon.com’s answer to Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, has moved beyond its by-invitation only beta status and is now available to Prime members across the U.S.

Using the “try before you buy” fashion service, Prime members may order a box containing between three and eight pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories to try on at home. Prime members have a week before they need to decide which items they’ll keep and which they’ll return for free. Items kept are charged to the Prime member’s account.

Unlike Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, which use stylists to determine what items to send customers, Amazon’s service relies on the personal choices of its Prime members.

Also, unlike Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, Amazon does not charge a fee for stylists to pick out items sent to members. While the rival services deduct the fee from purchases made, they also charge it in cases in which the customer chooses not to keep any items. 

Similar to its rivals, Amazon offers baby, children’s, men’s and women’s clothing as part of the service. Not every piece of clothing sold on Amazon, however, is included in Prime Wardrobe. Amazon Prime members can gain access via the Prime Wardrobe page on the site or add items that include the service’s tag under the item’s description.

While a variety of designer brands are included in the choices available to Prime members, TechCrunch reports that private labels have been the biggest seller for Amazon through its beta stage.

While Amazon doesn’t use stylists, its customers can receive some help on what to wear from the e-tailer’s Echo Look digital assistant. The voice-activated device with camera comes with Style Check, which employs “advanced machine learning algorithms and advice from fashion specialists” to provide feedback to users on what they are wearing. The information collected is used to provide future purchasing suggestions.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What impact will Prime Wardrobe have on the way Americans buy clothing? How effectively will the service compete with rivals such as Stitch Fix and Trunk Club?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The items sent to you by Prime Wardrobe sound more like one of those mystery grab bags offered in some retail stores. "
"Sorry, but Alexa is no substitute for the handwritten notes I receive along with my SF box each month. "
"There seems to me to be something simply wrong about a business model that inherently includes large portions of what they ship becoming returns."

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16 Comments on "Are Stitch Fix and Trunk Club toast?"


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Jon Polin
BrainTrust

As a Prime member, can’t I always order items and then return the ones I don’t want? Is the only difference now that I pay after the fact instead of upon purchase and then getting refunds upon return? This seems like mostly a marketing/cosmetic wrapping around the way many Prime members already shopping. This doesn’t mean that the presence of Amazon in the space won’t harm Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, though the personal shopper components of those businesses, driven by data, are differentiators vs. this Amazon offering.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I have no doubt that this will be successful, but it does not necessarily negate the need for other services like Trunk Club. Amazon’s service is driven by the user rather than by a stylist, so does not provide the same thrill of having someone select things for you which allows you to discover new fashions or garments you might not have thought about buying. In essence, there is value in someone doing the curation for you.

That said, the low cost to consumer nature of Amazon’s model may prove more of a threat and put pressure on other services to reduce prices or fees.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

I think Amazon just instituted a new and creative way to keep from making a profit. This formula is not without its costs.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

This is overly enthusiastic retailing for an overly indulged society. There seems to me to be something simply wrong about a business model that inherently includes large portions of what they ship becoming product returns.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Jon is spot-on. This is kind of like eating leftovers, or as Jon brilliantly stated it, “cosmetic wrapping around the way many Prime members already shop.”

Max Goldberg
Guest

I tried Stitch Fix and found their stylists to be tone deaf. They sent products that did not fit or were not in categories I requested. After three months I stopped my membership. Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe is better than Stitch Fix in many ways. I can select what I want, at prices I want to pay. There are not stylist fees. And with my Prime credit card, I save an additional 5 percent off on all purchases.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust
Back to the future: Retailers have been letting customers take things home on approval for like … forever. And weren’t we just talking about Amazon and excessive returns? The trying at home for free part of Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe is a huge plus, but the rest of it sounds like too much work, especially for non-branded product. Using a voice-activated Echo Look digital assistant might be fun, but I’d choose clothing curated by a professional stylist over items selected by “advanced machine learning algorithms” any day. The beauty of Stitch Fix and Trunk Club is that they send a box filled with items that are chosen just for you by a professional stylist who understands your taste, comfort level and size. Paying a fee for this service is worth it to discerning subscribers. Don’t get me wrong, Amazon’s new service is interesting, but to this consumer, the items sent to you by Prime Wardrobe sound more like one of those mystery grab bags offered in some retail stores. I’ll give it a try and let… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Isn’t this Zappos with slightly different window dressing?

Ray Riley
BrainTrust

I personally have no experience with Amazon’s private label apparel brands, so it’s difficult to comment fully. Ultimately this comes down to the curation of the right product and, as Neil said, the user leading that journey does create more friction. However, Amazon having the amount of data and active users it does will obviously be rocket fuel for building its digital assistants and stylists for these purposes.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Sounds like a very different value proposition from Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, and another attention-getting PR move from the masters.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Ken Morris
Retail industry thought leader
1 year 7 months ago

Subscription-based and curated shopping models are a hot trend that consumers are embracing. With the extensive audience of Amazon Prime members, the Prime Wardrobe program already has a huge captive market.

This will put a lot of competitive pressure on traditional curated shopping services such as Stitch Fix and Trunk Club. These companies may need to lower or eliminate some of the fees associated with their services to compete with Amazon Wardrobe.

Jeff Miller
Guest

Amazon, after a year of testing, has decided to focus on what they do best — convenience and wide product offering. Interesting that they moved away from discounting. I imagine through testing they figured the offer did not move the needle on adoption or perhaps hit the bottom line too hard. This is the opposite of Stitch Fix and Trunk Club who focus on curation and personalization. They solve different apparel shopping problems. I am still a bit unclear what problem Amazon Wardrobe solves since I can always order from a wide selection and return what I don’t want.

So it may be successful, but I don’t see the goal as competing with Stitch Fix. If I was to highlight one goal for this it would be to continue to push private label for Amazon. Whatever onsite personalization and guided buying that will occur within the platform will be 100% focused on showcasing private label brands for Amazon.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Prime Wardrobe is all about convenience. Subscription services like Stitch Fix and TrunkClub are about convenience plus curation, with the hopes that the curation element is worth the price of admission to the “club.” For some shoppers, the curation element seals the deal — they want to be told by a stylist what looks good on them and what they should buy.

Amazon’s version of this is for shoppers who want to try before they buy at scale in the most convenient way possible — in their own home. As others have said here, this is mostly cosmetic wrapping around normal Prime shopping practices, but it does add yet another element of convenience.

Once again, Amazon is demonstrating their power to deliver merchandise to customers in the most convenient way possible. For Prime customers that want a touch of that curated element, they offer the Echo Look device. I’d say they’re betting on most Prime shoppers wanting to just buy vs be told what to buy.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

Prime Wardrobe and stylist-driven services are technically apples and oranges concept-wise — or should be based on actual hierarchies and customer priorities. Ease of returns is a factor, but also table stakes.

Stylist assistance and personalization are the differentiated promises that Amazon competitors are making, though they unfortunately don’t always deliver. Like Max, I’ve had a spotty experience with Stitch Fix whose stylists didn’t read in on very specific feedback given over several deliveries (still trying). Friends of mine have had a range of experiences (including spot-on/thrilled).

On the brand front, I would argue that Amazon customers probably don’t know when they are buying an Amazon private brand — the monikers Amazon has snatched up sound so … branded. As for an Echo Look “assistant” plowing through personal style data — that could be more of a deterrent than a draw … at least for me.

Celeste C. Giampetro
Guest

The benefit of Stitch Fix and Trunk Club are the “human” element. Sorry, but Alexa is no substitute for the handwritten notes I receive along with my SF box each month. As one commenter pointed out, some months the stylist is off, but this is part of the fun IMHO. The other upside is, as a professional woman who hates to shop, someone else is doing it for me, like a real live human instead of AI/ML.

Min-Jee Hwang
Guest

Prime Wardrobe offers Americans a unique approach to ordering online apparel in a way that competitors can’t tap into. Although companies like Stitch Fix and Trunk Club provide stylists that help customers choose clothes, some people prefer picking their own clothes or don’t agree with the stylist’s opinion. Amazon is hoping to capitalize by optimizing that particular segment’s customer experience by allowing them to personally choose apparel and then letting them try it on for free. It’s strategic of Amazon to charge the customer after they send the products back, rather than charging them a baseline fee for the service. I don’t think Prime Wardrobe will put its competitors completely out of business because some people may prefer to work with a stylist, but it will definitely increase the competition level.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The items sent to you by Prime Wardrobe sound more like one of those mystery grab bags offered in some retail stores. "
"Sorry, but Alexa is no substitute for the handwritten notes I receive along with my SF box each month. "
"There seems to me to be something simply wrong about a business model that inherently includes large portions of what they ship becoming returns."

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