The outlet mall may soon be Amazonified.
Brands are moving one step closer to shedding their reluctance to sell on the platform. J. Crew, for example, recently rolled out an Amazon store for its lower-priced Mercantile label in a move that marked a shift away from a previous reluctance to do so, with its former CEO last year saying it wouldn’t sell on Amazon because Amazon “owns” the customer and could easily put best-selling items into its own private label collection.
Brands are waking up to the fact that getting in front of the consumer necessarily means selling on Amazon. J. Crew is the first to openly use the platform to offload discounted merchandise; for now, others are rolling out curated selections of inventory. For example, Nike, which didn’t comment for this story, last year confirmed it’s offering “a limited Nike product assortment” of footwear, apparel and accessories as it evaluates results.
Gap isn’t on Amazon, but CEO Art Peck said two years ago that it would be delusional not to think of selling on Amazon, as it considers plans to broaden the mix of channels it uses to reach new customers. Analysts say using Amazon as a platform to sell discounted, off-price merchandise can help brands better manage inventory and allow them to more efficiently channel it to bargain-hungry shoppers.
“You’re segmenting your inventory by channel so that you’re selling your current season’s stuff in your own flagship stores, while trying to get rid of last year’s stuff through this virtual outlet — it would be like pushing last season’s stuff off to Woodbury Common,” said Marie Chan, a partner at Vivaldi.
It’s still largely an experiment though — and it may not work for companies whose brand image isn’t yet a household name or thrives on some form of exclusivity.
J. Crew did not respond to requests for comment, but Forrester principal analyst Sucharita Kodali, who once argued Gap shouldn’t sell on Amazon due to competitive concerns, said recognized brands would likely do well on Amazon, but right now it’s just an additional platform among many for retailers to quickly move inventory.