How should specialty retail respond to Amazon’s apparel push?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from WayfinD, a quarterly e-magazine filled with insights, trends and predictions from the retail and foodservice experts at WD Partners.
Sometime this year, Amazon.com is predicted to become the biggest apparel retailer in the U.S. But, when it comes to fashion, it’s just not a very good one. Neither is Walmart, by the way, which the e-commerce giant will eclipse to claim the top spot.
That’s the tough lesson for the apparel industry: Amazon doesn’t have to be better at fashion to upend the apparel world, it only needs to be just okay.
Beyond offering a mass approach of middle-of-the-road private label offerings alongside established apparel brands, Amazon can see market demand in ways no specialty retailer can. In each of their respective categories, Amazon has exclusive knowledge about what shoppers want.
If specialty retailers try to beat Amazon at its own game, they will lose. Amazon is an unbeatable data machine. But the data, no matter how voluminous, is never going to beat a groundbreaking creative concept.
It’s time for specialty retailers to adopt convention-busting as a way of life. There’s no excuse for going to market with a boring store experience. Yet, outside a few concepts (i.e., Vans, Urban Outfitters, independent Third Wave retailers) complacency rules. Who is the Abercrombie & Fitch of the 21st Century? Shocking shoppers with half-nude models and noxious fragrance, blasting club music into mall atriums? It might not have been an experience for all, or one that would work today, but it was an edgy concept that worked amazingly well at the time.
Moreover, what breakthrough trend or fashion revolution have specialty brands ignited in recent years? Data can only suggest your customers don’t want skinny jeans anymore. It won’t create the next fashion breakthrough.
Given what we know, there is only one defense left against Amazon: create and introduce breakthrough ideas, fashions and store experiences. Upend the staid and derivative styles dominating the market. Render the uber-data obsolete and become a fashion vanguard again.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What is unique about the competitive challenges Amazon places on its rivals in the apparel category? Is a lack of creativity to blame for Amazon’s advancement, and what can retailers do reignite that spark?