Amazon's plan to create sportswear adds pressure to industry

American e-commerce company Amazon is working with various vendors, some of whom make clothing for big sportswear brands, to create a private-label activewear collection.
American e-commerce company Amazon is working with various vendors, some of whom make clothing for big sportswear brands, to create a private-label activewear collection.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • The playing field for sportswear just got more crowded.

Amazon is tapping some of the biggest athletic apparel suppliers to make a foray into private-label sportswear, setting the stage for further upheaval in an already tumultuous industry.

Makalot Industrial, a Taiwanese vendor that produces clothing for Gap and Uniqlo, is reportedly making apparel for the Amazon line.

Eclat Textile, another Taiwanese supplier, is contributing to the effort as well.

The project is new and long-term contracts have not been signed yet, said sources. The manufacturers are producing small amounts of products for Amazon as part of a trial.

Amazon had previously ventured into private-label fashion, offering office clothing, jackets and dresses under names such as Goodthreads and Paris Sunday.

But pushing into activewear would bring fresh competition to some of the world's biggest athletic brands.

Eclat's involvement is especially noteworthy because it makes clothing for Nike, Lululemon Athletica and Under Armour and has key expertise in making high-performance sportswear.

The move comes as unwelcome news for activewear companies already struggling to stand out in a sea of competition and discounts.

Last month, Nike said it expected sales to decline again this quarter in North America. Under Armour cut its annual sales forecast in August.

Lululemon has fared better this year, but it is also facing steeper competition in the market for yoga pants and other sporty apparel. That cut-throat environment in North America has pushed it to look overseas for growth.

Amazon has been hiring staff with know-how in private-label athletic apparel.

In January, Ms Kirsten Harris joined the company as a senior brand manager for Amazon active apparel, according to her LinkedIn profile.

She previously headed product development at Nordstrom's activewear brand for women, Zella. Before that, she held leadership roles in product development for Eddie Bauer and Nike.

Amazon has developed its own brands in part because they fill gaps in its inventory. If customers are searching for a certain type of shoe or skirt and do not see much of a selection from established brands, Amazon wants to be able to offer its own options.

Oftentimes, shoppers may not realise that the names - such as Scout + Ro and North Eleven - are owned by Amazon.

This also sends a message to brands reluctant to sell their full inventory on Amazon. If shoppers cannot find their products on the site, Amazon will make its own substitutes and become a competitor.

It is game on.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Amazon's plan to create sportswear adds pressure to industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe