Amazon executive Jeff Yurcisin alluded to the possibility of a private label apparel program for the e-commerce giant.
Andrew H. Walker
Amazon.com Inc., already a scourge to brick-and-mortar retailers, appears to be well on its way to vexing the next link in the apparel supply chain: the brands.The Seattle-based e-commerce giant has been putting out calls for apparel veterans to staff its Amazon Fashion Private Label team.One job listing that went up Friday said the company was looking for “an entrepreneurial, analytical and highly motivated [senior] sourcing manager to join our team to launch new high-quality products for our global customers.”The person hired will “drive the supplier selection process, negotiate contracts, and manage our portfolio of manufacturers on a global scale. They will be an expert at selecting factories across the globe that can reliably deliver products on spec at high quality levels and targeted costs.”That’s a change in tack for the company, which in fashion has been more of a platform for other brands to sell their goods. Amazon’s net sales jumped 20.2 percent to $107 billion last year, driving earnings of $596 million even as the company spent behind a host of initiatives to grab customers — from ultraspeedy delivery to downloadable TV shows.Amazon did not immediately return a query Monday on its ambitions for the private-label program. But the company already has a private-label business for electronics basics and has considered it for fashion as well.At the WWD CEO Summit last October, Jeff Yurcisin, who is vice president, clothing, Amazon Fashion and general manager and chief executive officer of Shopbop, noted that customers love brands, which account for the lion’s share of Amazon Fashion’s business.But he said that when certain brands decide not to sell on Amazon, the consumer still wants a similar product, opening opportunity for private label goods.If Amazon gets private label right and customers take to it, the effort could upend the business model of stores that surround their branded offerings with similar versions from their own lines, which yield a bigger chunk of profit margin.In its effort to jump deeper into the fashion business, Amazon is looking for people who fit its mold and ready to use data and to take sweeping action.The company, for instance, is also looking for someone to handle inventory planning who will "drive efficient use of Amazon’s capital through effective inventory management, vendor relationships, operational and supply-chain excellence. You will accomplish this by applying data-driven decisions, leading continuous process improvements, driving system and process automation with key internal teams….You will be a thought leader by influencing others to take action through scalable systems and processes, rather than just addressing issues.”Amazon is known for its hard-charging work environment.In August, the company came under the microscope of a New York Times exposé that put working conditions at the e-tailer in nearly Dickensian terms, describing a culture of relentlessly pushing forward and breaking with orthodoxy.Founder Jeff Bezos took issue with the article, noting it “prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices….The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know.”However, no one would dispute that Amazon is a fearsome competitor with the financial might and reach to remake whole industries, maybe even fashion.