Who Wore It Better? The Amazon Edition
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So if you’re a brand off which Amazon is basing its private fashion labels, it’s the ultimate compliment, right? Yeah, we’re guessing that sentiment ain’t shared. But that’s the name of the retail game - and Amazon has rolled up to the table with a semi-truck full of chips to play with.
Their investment in private labels has gained increasing attention over the past year, and while much of its offerings are arguably still considered basics, as Ed Yruma pointed out in a recent WWD article, it’s “looking closer and closer to — and this is kind of a bad word today — your traditional department store.” And this is exactly how Amazon is putting increasing pressure on retailers who are already struggling to turn their slow-moving organizations around. On the surface it may seem like they’re playing safe, but they’re going for easy wins where they can dominate on pricing with low-risk, minimal-consideration purchases for consumers.
So what defines a low-risk category in fashion? Lark + Ro, one of its first private labels, features women’s staple cashmere, dresses and outerwear - competing with the likes of Uniqlo and Everlane. Goodthreads, its line of men’s buttondowns, chinos, and fleece, is Bonobos’ brother from another mother. And their label Ella Moon doesn’t just take the boho cue from Anthropologie, it actually says this in the product description, ‘If you like Anthropologie, check out Ella Moon’s collection of well-detailed, globally inspired apparel.’ (Hold on, is that even allowed?) Digging further into their assortment, selections from their Mae line of intimates bear a striking resemblance to Hanky Panky, the mother of the thong. We could continue here, but we think you get the point.
But what does fashion flattery look like from a pricing point-of-view? We thought it’d be fun to take our product similarity tool for a spin, and of course, we added our own commentary on who wore it better.
The battle is on for the urban bro’s wardrobe. We’ve already mentioned Bonobos (who happens to be part of archnemesis Walmart’s family), and of course there’s are tons of department store options when it comes to casual buttondown shirts. So if you, hipster lumberjack, are in the market for a shirt and you are looking at Amazon’s options, well, look no further than its Goodthreads brand. We matched three 100% cotton, red plaid options - from Goodthreads, Bonobos, and Macy’s - and looked at how they compare with each other.
Amazon Goodthreads handily beats the other two on price - but its fit and sizing options are far fewer than Bonobos - options for which you will pay a premium. Closest to Goodthreads in price is Macy’s brand Club Room - at $39.50 - but you still get more choices when it comes to prints and colorways. Considering all this, we’d say that Bonobos is probably competing for a slightly different customer profile - one who is more concerned with getting the proper fit and length and is willing to pay a bit more for it. The data here reinforces the point that Amazon is competing head-to-head with the department store, and that $25 price point is tough to beat. One point to Amazon.
Lark + Ro
It happens to be 5 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside, and we’re in the market for a cozy sweater. What better than some luxe 100% cashmere to keep the frigid temps at bay? Cashmere is a material that has become ubiquitous at every price point (while of course quality varies widely.) Let’s take a look at our black turtleneck cash-miracle options - matching styles from Amazon’s Lark + Ro brand, Everlane, and cold-weather favorite Uniqlo.
So how do they stack up? Uniqlo leads the pack in low pricing, as well as color and size options. Their cashmere turtleneck rings in at $59.90 (currently marked down $20). However, Lark + Ro is not far behind - their style lists at $115, but is currently selling for $79. While arguably a different target customer, we thought it worth benchmarking against digital disruptor Everlane - whose style is priced at a cool $150. It looks like Uniqlo takes this round - and we’ll also be adding some Heattech layers to our carts while we’re at it.
Bralettes have seen a steady increase in consumer interest over the past year and a half according to Google Trends data, and retailers have been responding to the tune of a 100% increase in the number of bralette SKUs over the same time period (according to StyleSage historic data.) Light support is big business indeed!
Amazon’s Mae intimates and sleepwear line may be only available to Prime members, but it didn’t stop us from checking out their goods, alongside a few competitors also in the bralette space, including Aerie (American Eagle) and Kohl’s. What we found was interesting indeed.
First, American Eagle’s Aerie line certainly caters to a younger (and likely not yet Prime) customer, but the offerings sure bear similarities. In fact, Aerie’s prices were the lowest of the three we matched ($11.98), and they offered the most sizes to shoppers. The next in line was Kohl’s Candies brand, a brand also catering to the teen and early 20’s shopper - with a price point ringing in (with several discounts) at $13.59. When we looked at Amazon’s Mae relative to these two, their price point (no discounts offered) was $18 - with 4 colors and 4 sizes available. So while their price was somewhat higher than the other two brands, we couldn’t help but notice that the model for Amazon’s photograph looked more - let’s call it ‘mature’ - and that they’re likely going after the shopper who wants bralettes with a more age appropriate styling. Makes sense to us - and while we personally prefer the plethora of bralette options Aerie offers - we give points to Amazon for scoping (scooping?) out a market opportunity that also fits nicely with their target demographic.
Of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention activewear. With the launch of three new active lines over the past few months - Goodsport, Rebel Canyon, and Peak Velocity - there’s a growing concern around from whom Amazon is most likely to steal market share. Will it be the premium sportswear brands like Nike or Adidas, or are they more likely to steal share from Walmart or Target? Good questions indeed, and there are insights as to how this might play out that can be gleaned from looking at these brands’ offerings side-by-side.
You’ve resolved to get to the gym this New Year, right? Then you’ll be needing a good pair of leggings to go that extra mile with you. We took a look at Amazon’s Goodsport, Nike, and C9 Champion brands (Target), to see how their black cropped leggings compare. The cheapest of the bunch (in black color at least) was Amazon, at $13.48. (Although some of their color and size options were as much as $30.99.) Interestingly, Target’s C9 and Nike Essentials brand were very close in price, at $34.99 and $39.97, respectively. To be fair, there are features in both the C9 and Nike products that help command a premium including wicking fabrics, zip compartments, and reflective strips - and these things matter to the discerning active shopper. We also give props to all three brands for offering six different sizes to fit a wide range of body shapes. While this match was a difficult one to call - we have to hand it to Nike for the full package - a reasonable price point, proven product technology, and thoughtful design details. This is a product that gets heavy rotation and proven product quality is critical in these active usage situations.
We think some of the most important things to be watching in Amazon’s continued fashion expansion - aside from just price - are the product design details they choose to both include and omit, the sizing and color options, and the specific demographic they are targeting (either by the models, Prime membership eligibility, or the overt brands they call out in the product listings.) There is certainly reason, as the data we've highlighted today illustrates, for mid-tier brands and retailers to be concerned about lost market share.
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