Amazon will open first brick-and-mortar clothing store in Los Angeles – The Washington Post

Coming more than full circle in its disruption of retailing, Amazon is wading into the world of brick-and-mortar clothing stores with a 30,000-square-foot shop in an upscale mall in suburban Los Angeles.
Amazon Style promises to leverage the e-commerce giant’s tech prowess and depth of data to give consumers a “seamless and elevated shopping experience,” the Seattle-based company said Thursday in a blog post. Shoppers will use QR codes to see various sizes, colors and product ratings, and will be able to send clothes to the fitting room or checkout counter with the touch of a button. Touch screens in fitting rooms will let shoppers request more items without having to leave. Customers will be able check out using Amazon’s palm-recognition technology.
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After the industry endured years of store closures and the pandemic set off flurries of big-name bankruptcies and pushed online shopping to new heights, Amazon and other brands are reconsidering the value of physical stores. More than 5,080 new stores opened across the country last year, barely edging out the number that shuttered for the first time in five years, according to Coresight Research. And PwC’s annual consumer survey found that in-store shopping has +recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with almost half of customers saying they shopped in-person on a daily or weekly basis.
Other retail giants have been tweaking their brick-and-mortar approaches in an effort to reach more customers. Dick’s Sporting Goods is testing “Dick’s House of Sport” megastores with a turf field and track, batting cages, a climbing wall and putting green. Wayfair, which came to prominence as an online-only retailer, is opening up three new stores in Massachusetts this year. And Dollar General is slated to open dozens of new locations for pOpshelf, where roughly 95 percent of inventory is priced at $5 or less.
After trying out physical bookstores, convenience stores and groceries without major success, it makes sense that Amazon is turning to fashion: In 2020, Amazon eclipsed Walmart to become the nation’s top-selling apparel retailer, according to research from Wells Fargo. Amazon does not break out apparel sales in its financial statements, but Wells Fargo projected that its U.S. apparel and footwear revenue would surpass $45 billion in 2021.
(Amazon’s founder and executive chair, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)
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Despite claiming the top slot, Amazon has yet to achieve the kind of dominance it desires in fashion, according to Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. Consumers’ preference for clothes shopping in-person has disadvantaged Amazon; in-purchases still make up more than 85 percent of U.S. retail spending.
The new store is an “experiment,” Saunders said, to determine whether it can broaden its customer base, capture some share from physical retailers and learn more about buying behavior. Aside from its more than 500 Whole Foods locations, Amazon is investing in about 90 stores across the country under such banners as Amazon Books and Amazon Fresh, according to the National Retail Federation.
Regardless of whether Amazon rolls out more stores nationally, the foray “should worry other apparel retailers, especially department stores,” Saunders told The Post in an email, because it’s yet another competitor in a crowded space.
“And this one has a lot of data on customer preferences and needs.”
Still, Saunders said, Amazon’s success will hinge on execution, and the Seattle-based giant has struggled in the past to create compelling in-store experiences. In fashion, Amazon will need to “think very carefully” about curation and personal service.
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So far, it seems that Amazon Style is leaning into tech and endeavoring to “reimagine” physical retail rather than harness the power of tactile shopping. Most inventory will be kept in the back, with just a single version of each item displayed on the floor; customers will request items and guide their experience through the Amazon Shopping app, which uses the same technology as the company’s fulfillment centers. But the store will still be staffed by employees who will focus on customer service, from delivering clothes to managing checkout.
The store, which is coming to the Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif., sometime this year, wants to be a destination for all shoppers, harnessing the power of Amazon’s sprawling fulfillment network and real-time shopping recommendations to offer a steady stream of new merchandise.
“You’ll find everything from the $10 basic to the designer jeans to the $400 timeless piece,” Simoina Vasen, managing director of Amazon Style, told CNBC. “We want to meet every budget and every price point.”
Amazon’s latest retail push comes as it confronts an increasingly antagonistic Washington — which is concerned with the company’s power as both an online marketplace and a vendor — as well as intensifying pressure from workers and labor groups who have criticized working conditions at the company.
Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala., will soon begin voting on whether to form a union, a year after the large unionization effort failed amid controversy over the e-commerce giant’s tactics. Ballots will be mailed Feb. 4, and the counting of votes will begin March 28, the National Labor Relations Board announced this month.
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