Amazon making foray into fashion

Some of the clothes featured on Amazon, which is developing its own clothing lines.
Some of the clothes featured on Amazon, which is developing its own clothing lines.PHOTO: AMAZON

NEW YORK • Amazon has been making moves over the past few months to position itself as a force in the ready-to-wear fashion world.

In 2006, it bought the site Shopbop and snapped up online footwear go-to Zappos three years later.

But its steps in recent months - some overt and others more under-the-radar - signal that it is speeding up its foray into fashion.

It launched a daily, free half-hour online show on fashion early last month, its first-ever live-streaming programme. It also became the main partner of the fledgling New York Men's Fashion Week, which held its second season of shows in January.

And the giant founded by United States entrepreneur Jeff Bezos has also begun airing The Fashion Fund, a reality show where young designers face off in a competition sponsored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America that organises New York Fashion Week.

As for its more muted moves - these are visible on where new fashion labels have popped up that, it turns out, have been trademarked by the tech giant.

The labels Lark & Ro, North Eleven and Franklin Tailored have been registered by Amazon over the past few months, according to data on the website of the European Union Intellectual Property Office.

After focusing on clothes designed, made and sold by others, Amazon, whose revenue last year passed the US$100-billion (S$135- billion mark), is developing its own clothing lines.

"Amazon has made apparel a priority," analysts with KeyBanc Capital Markets wrote in a February research note after attending the Magic apparel trade show in Las Vegas.

"Amazon is being viewed as a strategic opportunity and partner" in the vendor community, they wrote, with some believing that "it can be a top three customer for them in the medium term" .

Customers appear to like what is in the works.

"There's... the ability to have the world at your fingertips in one place," said Mr Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group.

"Brand sites or traditional retail sites have limited offerings. Whereas when you look at Amazon, the offer of products is mind-boggling," he added.

"The ability to reach across so many brands, so many styles, so many sizes, so many options, it gives a feeling of much greater opportunity to secure the product that you want."

Amazon has the potential to make a significant mark on the fashion world, said Mr Cohen. "There's plenty of opportunity to better what has been done by the fashion industry, from a basic and also mid-level and even from a designer perspective," he said.

Analysts at the Cowen Group said last July that they expected Amazon to become the leading US apparel retailer by next year, ahead of Wal-Mart and Macy's. They forecast US$27.7 billion in revenue next year and US$52 billion in 2020 - and that is in the US alone.

On a more international front, chains such as H&M and Zara also have reason to be concerned.

If the inauguration late last year in Seattle of a brick-and-mortar bookstore is anything to go by, Amazon one day could decide to open ready-to-wear clothing stores.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2016, with the headline 'Amazon making foray into fashion'. Print Edition | Subscribe