dot.LA reports that Amazon has opened its first clothing store - Amazon Style, located in the The Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, California, about 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
Here's how the story describes the store:
"The floor is massive - laying out original products from Amazon’s own apparel lines alongside name brands like Theory, Adidas and Calvin Klein, as well as several other lines that have up until now only existed online. But the actual store is much larger than the two floors that most customers will only ever see.
"Amazon Style is just the front - the homepage, if you will - behind which a large warehouse facility keeps a gigantic surplus of inventory. A floor-to-ceiling glass window on the main floor gives shoppers just a peak behind the scenes, as employees help load industrial-sized elevators with racks of goods to send upstairs to the dressing rooms."
dot.LA reports that "one doesn’t just pick an item off the rack and take it with you while you shop. Instead, each rack has a barcode that you can scan via the Amazon Shopping app, which has your sizes pre-loaded from previous purchases. (You can opt for a different size if you choose.) That cues an AI-enabled algorithm to start searching through the store’s warehoused catalog and zip the desired item over to the second floor, where the dressing room provides its own glimpse into the future of shopping … Your phone also acts as your keycard to get into your personal dressing room. To prevent waiting, you are put in a virtual cue the moment you scan your first item; should your screen prompt that your room is ready while you’re still shopping, a press of a button allows you to hold your spot in the queue while freeing up the room for someone else."
The story goes on: "The changing room is like its own parlor trick. Designed to look like a walk-in closet, one wall has a full-length mirror and a giant touchscreen while another has all the clothes you scanned in your style and size preference. Expect to see a few surprises in there, as Amazon’s algorithm picks out other stuff you might want to try on based on your picks. It would be spooky if it wasn’t so convenient - an IRL mashup of the online retailer’s 'Recommended Based on Your Purchases' and 'Frequently Bought Together' features.
"If an item doesn’t fit quite right or you want to see how a skirt looks in blue instead of black, just tap the touchscreen to request a variant. Or an entirely new outfit, as the screen makes available everything in the facility. Then just bring it down to checkout—perhaps the wildest part of this ride."
USA Today writes about the checkout process: "To check out, customers can scan a QR code to directly charge their account, use an Amazon One hand scanner, or traditional methods like cash or credit card. But what if you don't buy something then change your mind later? Any scans from the store are saved to the shopping app, and customers can choose to purchase items at a later time online."
TechCrunch offers some context:
"Amazon has spent years experimenting with technology in the fashion space, notably with Echo Look, a since-discontinued connected camera that combined human and machine intelligence to recommend styles, color-filter clothes and keep track of what’s in customers’ wardrobes. The Echo Look tied into Prime Wardrobe, a program akin to those offered by Stitch Fix and Trunk Club that let users try on clothes and send back what they don’t want to buy.
"In March 2021, Amazon passed Walmart as the top apparel retailer in the U.S. partly due to the pandemic-linked boom in online ordering, Wells Fargo reported. Analysts at the bank estimated that domestic sales of apparel and footwear on Amazon last year exceeded $41 billion, including sales through third-party sellers."
And, from Gizmodo: "This isn’t Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar store, though not all have been a success. The company recently announced the closure of dozens of physical bookstores (you know, the things Amazon helped kill), 4-star stores, and mall pop-up kiosks. Overall, though, building physical locations has been a success, with Amazon reporting $4.68 billion generated from physical stores in Q4 2021, up from $4.02 billion a year prior."
- KC's View:
The coverage all seems rather breathless, and I might feel the same way if I hadn't seen Hointer back in 2013, which was created by entrepreneur and former Amazon.com executive Nadia Shouraboura. Hointer was a lot smaller than Amazon Style, and basically just sold men's jeans, but the bones of the idea are pretty much the same, with Amazon Style's advantage being that technology has come a long way in the past decade.
It is hard to get a sense whether Amazon Style is scalable in a way that will give the company a physical fashion footprint around the country, though it is a pretty good bet that Amazon has some real estate picked out for where it can open additional units. (Maybe it could convert some of the warehouse space that it overbuilt to really big clothing stores? Too soon?)
The Bloomberg story makes the point that Amazon "has pledged to open stores only when it has something original to offer customers." This may not be entirely original, but it certainly seems differentiated and could be successful. But at the very least, Amazon is going to learn something about how to sell fashion, which will inform its future moves.