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Amazon Unveils Apparel Store

NEW YORK — In a giant leap for apparel e-tailing, Amazon.com Thursday e-mailed to its best customers a link to its just-live fashion store — an effort that also represents the Internet behemoth’s first attempt at aggregating the...

NEW YORK — In a giant leap for apparel e-tailing, Amazon.com Thursday e-mailed to its best customers a link to its just-live fashion store — an effort that also represents the Internet behemoth’s first attempt at aggregating the offer of multiple merchants in a particular category.

This story first appeared in the November 1, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Amazon can bring more value to apparel as an aggregator because it is such a fragmented sector,” noted Ken Cassar, senior retail analyst at Jupiter Research, which counts Amazon as a client. “In sectors such as toys and office goods, Amazon can link with a single retailer and control a much bigger piece of the market,” he added, in referring to deals Amazon has with Toys R Us and Office Depot.

Amazon spokesman Bill Curry declined comment on the new fashion store, at amazon.com/ruby.

In the first phase of its effort, Amazon is offering apparel, accessories, and beauty products from more than 400 fashion and retail brands, including more than two dozen names featured on the store’s landing pad. There, shoppers will find links to apparel and accessories under such names as Kate Spade, Tommy Bahama and Cole Haan (via the Nordstrom shop); Mossimo (via Target); Guess; Geoffrey Beene; Izod; Gap; Old Navy, and Eddie Bauer, and eLuxury, where visitors will find fashion from Marc Jacobs, Fendi, Dior, DKNY and Earl Jean, among a few dozen others — plus beauty goods under 16 labels, like Bulgari, Face Stockholm and Trish McEvoy.

In Cassar’s view, Amazon’s apparel offer marks “a vast improvement” over all previous efforts online. “Amazon has built an apparel store with a customer focus, rather than the merchant focus found at other sites,” Cassar commented. “They haven’t filled every inch of the screen with promotional links. Instead, there are lots of navigational links.”

Among the navigational paths are seven product categories, like women, men and “browse brands;” six specialty stores, such as petites and plus sizes; “help ordering,” and an order tracker like the one found at Amazon’s flagship. Customers also can click on “your ideas,” and then e-mail the Seattle-based dot-com with their thoughts about the apparel store.

There are a handful of promotions, as well. Front and center is a deal providing people who spend $50 with $30 to spend at Amazon.com. At the bottom of the home page there are three promotions for items found at the e-tailer’s electronics and tools stores.

“The look and feel of the apparel store is cleaner than Yahoo’s or MSN’s or any of the big portals,” Cassar said. “And with the portals featuring more promotions, the advertisers tend to win and the shoppers tend to lose.”

Amazon’s entry into the apparel-and-accessories arena could fire up the sector’s sales online this holiday, a category whose third-quarter e-tail volume grew 22 percent to a combined $1.3 billion, according to data released this week by comScore Networks. That made fashion the third biggest nontravel category online for the period, behind computer hardware and office supplies.

If fourth-quarter apparel-and-accessories volume climbs 60 percent above third-quarter levels, as it did last year, it would hit $2.1 billion, said Michelle David Adams, comScore’s senior retail analyst. Full-year e-tail sales of apparel are projected to tally $4.6 billion, up 44 percent from $3.2 billion in 2001, according to Jupiter Research.