Amazon.com Inc. is entering the fashion subscription box business.
Sure, the e-commerce giant shook the supermarket world Friday when it unveiled its takeover of Whole Foods Market Inc. But on Tuesday, it revealed its latest foray into that other realm of day-to-day living: clothing. Prime Wardrobe, as Amazon calls it, is an attempt to bolster its fashion business as it tries to win over shoppers’ closets. Subscribers to Amazon Prime can choose three or more pieces of clothing, shoes, or accessories to fill their boxes, which arrive at their doorstep. They then have seven days to try on the items and decide what to keep. Unwanted items are shipped back to Amazon.com.
Amazon is using this twist on the subscription box phenomenon as part of a broader effort to be top of mind when people buy clothes. The online retailer is developing its own stable of fashion labels to sell suits, dresses, lingerie and more. And it’s trying to incorporate its voice-activated Echo speaker brand into its fashion push. In April, the company unveiled the Echo Look, a $200 hands-free camera designed for dressing rooms that takes photos and video on voice command, so users can assess outfits from every angle. The device also lets users submit photos of two outfits to get a recommendation on the best one.
Amazon’s wardrobe quest hasn’t been entirely smooth. It canceled a short-lived fashion TV show, Style Code Live, which attempted to integrate shopping and live television, QVC-style. And brands have been wary about selling on Amazon due to concerns about counterfeit products sold on the site, which lets almost anyone post products after completing an online registration process.
Fashion subscription services of all stripes are abundant, led by such businesses as Stitch Fix and Fabletics, but none is in Amazon’s league, size-wise. Clothing rental company Rent the Runway launched its own subscription business, called Unlimited, in 2016. Nordstrom Inc. bought men’s subscription service Trunk Club for $350 million in 2014.
Thousands of subscription boxes are out there for all sorts of items, building on the initial success of early entrant Birchbox, a beauty products seller. Now boxes peddle everything from candles to tampons. One even sends out a single pencil each month. Many tout discovery over selection, shipping boxes full of stuff that isn’t revealed until the box is ripped open. Others allow subscribers to pick what comes in their boxes.
The contents of Amazon’s boxes will be fully selected by shoppers, yet Prime Wardrobe isn’t quite as bespoke or personalized as some of its competitors. There’s no stylist who suggests and picks items for you, as there is at Stitch Fix or Trunk Club. Shoppers must pore over Amazon’s endless online vending machine to find their own looks.