Last year, the company’s gross merchandise apparel sales — Amazon’s direct sales of clothing plus the commission it collects
on sales by independent merchants on its site — were $22 billion, or 6.6 percent of the market, Cowen estimated.
The company’s apparel team is exploring the possibility of offering “on-demand” clothing
that would be made only after a customer submitted an order, using the customer’s precise measurements, according to a person briefed on the discussions who asked for anonymity because they were confidential.
Online clothing and accessory shopping’s share of retail hit 21 percent last year, according to estimates by Cowen and Company, a stock research firm.
Amazon’s solution was to improve clothing selection, pour money into photography to give internet shoppers a better representation of garments
and offer free returns on most apparel so customers could order untroubled by the thought of sending items back.
If there are tipping points in retail — moments when shopping behavior swings decisively in one direction — there’s a strong case to be made
that apparel is reaching one now, with broad implications for jobs, malls and shopping districts.
If it works, the plan could make shoppers happier by delivering clothing
that looks better on them, while also addressing the ruinous consequences that returns can have on the profits of internet apparel retailers.
About 35 percent of all apparel orders are returned, said Stefan Weitz, chief product and strategy officer for Radial, a company
that runs e-commerce operations for other brands and retailers.
“I do think this year is the year apparel e-commerce takes off,” said Cooper Smith, an analyst at L2.
One idea Amazon is considering to lubricate apparel shopping: custom-fit clothing.
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