As convenient as it is to buy online, shopping for clothes online is always a risk. There are no virtual changing rooms (unless you use a janky AR app), clothes never fit to size, and photos only reveal so much about the colour, texture, and quality of a garment. Amazon, seemingly recognising the limitations of its own platform, just flipped the switches on its first physical clothing store, a shop called “Amazon Style” in Glendale, California at The Americana At Brand shopping complex.
This being an Amazon store, the shopping experience isn’t that of traditional retail stores. Shoppers at Amazon Style use an app to scan codes on items, which signals to an employee to grab the right size and colour and send the clothes to either a fitting room or checkout counter. This way, you don’t have to walk around the store carrying a pile of clothes.
When you’re in a fitting room, a large touchscreen panel on the wall gives you digital access to more clothing options so you can scroll through a “seemingly endless selection” while other shoppers impatiently wait for their turn to try on clothes. From the screen, you can request that additional clothes be brought for you to try on. There is also an app feature meant to replicate a personal shopper: you note your clothing preferences and Amazon will use machine learning algorithms to find looks that fit your style.
Amazon Style forgoes the unnervingly futuristic cashier-less “Just Walk Out” payment method used in Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods locations. Instead, the clothing store will use the arguably even more controversial Amazon One palm recognition service, which works in the same way as a fingerprint or facial recognition, except using the unique shape and veins of your palm. If Amazon’s checkered past with handling biometric data has you on edge, payments can also be made from a standard card reader.
Amazon sells basic clothing items online, but has been less successful with fashion brands. One reason is that its selection is infested with cheap knockoffs and counterfeits. To combat this, Amazon opened an online “luxury store” for high-end brands, and at its retail store, the company will sell products from Lacoste, Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce Vide, and Steve Madden.
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 $US4.68 ($6) billion generated from physical stores in Q4 2021, up from $US4.02 ($6) billion a year prior.
Amazon will be hoping its physical stores can help ignite a shopping category it recently failed to rejuvenate. In 2020, Amazon discontinued its Echo Look, a standalone camera that used AI and machine learning to give owners fashion advice. Now it’s banking on modern technology and brand recognition to lure in shoppers.