Retail

Amazon picks fashion for first Australian move: Are shoppers ready?

Emma Koehn /

It’s been years in the making, and all signs point to retail giant Amazon lifting the lid on its local offering by the end of the month, hoping to catch fashion-conscious shoppers during Australia’s $48 billion Christmas retail season.

Fairfax reports the online retailer’s international production team have landed down under to commence a mammoth run of fashion shoots ahead of local shoppers gaining access to its Australian platform.

Meanwhile, the sellers looking to partner with Amazon Marketplace in Australia are reportedly uploading their inventories and will meet this week for a conference on online sales through its platforms.

A summit in Sydney today will see Amazon “provide practical guidance on setting up and growing a business online”.

A member of Amazon’s local operations told Fairfax on Friday it appears the giant will have its online fashion portal operational by December. Retail analysts have tipped Amazon’s first splash will be an event tied to the Thanksgiving Black Friday sales.

Euromonitor senior research analyst Hianyang Chan told SmartCompany earlier this year Amazon will be prepared to offer local sales events and capitalise on campaigns like Boxing Day by aiming to provide an online experience more comprehensive than any other Australian retailer across all of its brands.

“We can also possibly expect Amazon to offer a carnival-like experience by involving consumers throughout the event such as rolling out new technology innovations and games to enhance the customer’s shopping experience,” Chan says.

On Friday the National Retail Association predicted Australia’s Christmas period would generate $48 billion in sales across the country, with the organisation’s chief executive Dominique Lamb observing retailers have “upped the ante” on fulfilment and delivery this year.

Do Aussies see Amazon as a fashion brand?

Despite predictions Amazon’s clothing offering is not far off in Australia, director of Good Things Marketing Helen Ahrens observes Australian shoppers might not think of the global giant as a powerhouse for clothing and accessories.

“That being said, with the resources available to them, that customer perception could easily be swayed.”

Secrecy is a significant part of the Amazon brand, and this also looks to be playing out in not revealing details of fashion or other consumer goods that will be on offer, Ahrens says. While Amazon has the “brand equity” to pull off that sense of excitement and secrecy, smaller businesses can’t use this tight-lipped approach so well.

“A secrecy angle just isn’t a launch strategy for smaller businesses,” she says, observing that even when shoppers don’t know what to expect, the very idea of keeping things secret promises “something high quality, and something the customer will like.”

Instead, small businesses facing down Amazon might be well-served to try to surprise their customers, without completely shutting them out of the brand until a big reveal is made.

“Maybe do something like offer a ‘Spring surprise’ event to get people to come along to,” she suggests.

Here comes Christmas

Australian SMEs have long reported to SmartCompany they prefer to see Amazon’s arrival as a opportunity rather than a threat, but retailers across both fashion and lifestyle categories are employing plenty of new strategies in the lead-up to this Christmas.

This includes the rise of the “marketplace”, with everyone from department store Myer to online retail group Catch amping up efforts to turn their portals into one-stop shops across a variety of brands.

Reports of Amazon’s foray into fashion come after months of tough news for Australian bricks-and-mortar retailers. IBISWorld predicts traditional Australian department store sales will grow at 0.7% over the next five years, as the sector faces the fallout from international fast-fashion players that have entered the market.

However, that hasn’t stopped other department store competitors like UK outfitter Debenham’s from establishing a flagship store in Australia in the lead-up to Christmas. When the brand launched last month, management told SmartCompany that speed of purchase was the most important factor in capturing fashion and lifestyle spending in Australia.

Retail analysts agree speed is now the top priority, whether retailers are selling electronics or fashion.

“It’s an interesting time to be in the unsexy area of logistics at the moment, but I definitely think it will become a highly competitive area,” strategist at Retail Oasis Pippa Kulmar predicted in August this year. 

SmartCompany contacted Amazon Australia for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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  • Jason Proposch

    There are options for Bricks & Mortar retailers to avoid the serious wounding foreshadowed by the progress of Amazon and other alternative marketplaces. Focusing on on-line portals is certainly part of the puzzle, BUT, the in-store experience is where consumers can engage in a different and meaningful way that can not be duplicated on-line. The in-store (B&M) experience is paramount and B&M retailers really need to be “rolling out technology innovations to enhance the customer’s shopping experience” in the B&M store. It’s about ENGAGEMENT. Speed to purchase is important, but consumer engagement is critical. So innovations that enhance the physical store experience will allow B&M retailers to incease their relevance to consumers. One example, ili! (www.ililoveit.com), creates engagement points in-store, increases convenience, opens a new channel, captures important consumer behavioural data and encourages phygital engagement. These types of innovations need to be a part of every retailer’s armory. Long live B&M.