Amazon Is Closing Its High-tech Fashion Specialty Stores

Amazon is ditching bricks and sticking with clicks when it comes to fashion.

The e-commerce giant said it was shutting down its two Amazon Style stores — high-tech specialty apparel doors that offered a new approach to retailing, but ultimately fell short.

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Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish said the company would instead “focus on our online fashion shopping experience, where we’re offering new, exciting selection at great value and introducing innovative technology to meet the needs of every customer.”

The company, which is working to help employees find new roles within Amazon as the stores close in the next week, is not giving up on all of its retail ambitions.

“Physical retail remains an important part of our business, and we’re continuing to invest in growing our grocery stores business, which spans Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, Amazon Go and third-party partnerships,” Kish said.

The first Amazon Style outpost opened in May last year in the Americana at Brand center near Los Angeles, offering what amounted to a 30,000-square-foot retail experiment.

Customers could use their Amazon app to personalize their shopping, programming in their size and style preferences. Sales associates were also available to help out.

But each style had just one sample on the floor and shoppers would scan a QR code and have their size sent to a dressing room. Additional items, picked by algorithm, would also be waiting for them to try on.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, described it as “an interesting enough concept, with well-designed and pleasantly merchandised stores.”

“However, in our view, the automation of the fitting rooms is an over-engineered solution in search of a problem,” Saunders said. “Amazon is simply trying to reinvent something for the sake of reinvention and ended up with a business model that was more complex and costly than a regular clothing store.”

And, despite carrying some good brands, he said the store lacked a distinctive point of view and struggled to build a base of regular customers.

Luckily, Amazon has a good fashion fallback plan.

Wells Fargo estimates that Amazon overall sells some $67 billion in apparel and footwear, including third-party sales through its marketplace.

That business, led by Amazon Fashion president Muge Erdirik Dogan, has been successfully drawing more brands, with Coach recently signing up and Victoria’s Secret expanding its assortment on the site.

The site, having already built the largest apparel business in the U.S., is also looking to bolster its offering with more services, like virtual try-on for shoes and eyewear, fit recommendations and a try before you buy feature.

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