Apparel is something that intuition says people want to buy at the store, not online. It’s easier to make clothing choices when you can try something on, examine its features, and make sure the size is right for you. But Amazon is attacking that perception with a new service called Amazon Prime Wardrobe. The service sends Amazon Prime members a box of eligible apparel items, which they then have seven days to try on, shipping back what they don’t want, for free. The Wall Street Journal’s Suzanne Kapner explains:
Customers aren’t charged for the purchase during the trial period and they are offered a discount of up to 20% on what they keep.
“The reason this program is such a wake-up call for traditional retailers is the fitting room was the one place where an offline retailer could differentiate itself from an online pure play,” said Joel Bines, the co-head of AlixPartners LLP’s retail practice. “A good sales associate [in a store] can make all the difference.”
Apparel is a notoriously difficult and costly segment for online retailers, where return rates can approach 40% for some items. Amazon is now the second-largest apparel seller behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after taking market share from Target Corp. and several department stores, according to a research note published by Morgan Stanley in April.
For all its success in other areas, “Amazon still hasn’t cracked the apparel code,” Mr. Bines said. “It’s philosophy of being the everything store is a disadvantage in apparel.” Traditional retailers have relied on the instincts of their merchants to create a curated selection for shoppers. By contrast, Amazon wants to make every choice available to customers, which can be overwhelming for some.
The online retailer has made inroads by convincing such name brands as Calvin Klein, Kate Spade and Levi Strauss to sell on its website. It has also been adding its own brands in several categories, including athletic clothes, lingerie and workwear. It recently named former Victoria’s Secret executive Christine Beauchamp to replace Catherine Beaudoin as head of its fashion division.
An Amazon spokeswoman said more than a million items are eligible for the Wardrobe service, including brands like Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Lacoste and Adidas. “It makes it easier for customers to touch or see items in-person when buying clothing, shoes and accessories online,” she said.
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