Amazon is so serious about its next big thing that hired three women to do nothing but try on size 8 shoes for its Web reviews. Full time.
The online retailer is shooting 3,000 fashion images a day in a photo studio using patent-pending technology.
And it is happily losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year on free shipping — and even free returns on apparel — to keep its shoppers coming back.
Having decimated the publishing industry, slashed pricing in electronics and made the toy industry quiver, Amazon is taking on the high-end clothing business in its typical way: go big and spare no expense.
“It’s Day 1 in the category,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, said in a recent interview. Though characteristically tight-lipped on bottom-line details, Mr. Bezos said the company is making a “significant” investment in fashion as it tries to convince designer brands that it wants to work with them, not against them.
The traditional retail world — and many major brands that want no part of Amazon — are gearing up to fight for their lives.
“It has the latitude to set prices and charge whatever it wants,” Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst for Forrester Research, said of Amazon. “That is a huge threat for brands.”
Amazon has sold clothing for years. But in the last year, it says, it has signed on hundreds of contemporary and high-end brands, including Michael Kors, Vivienne Westwood, Catherine Malandrino, Jack Spade and Tracy Reese, and it continues to prowl for more. On Monday, some of Amazon’s muscle will be on display as the company sponsors, and live-streams, the Costume Institute Benefit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the accompanying exhibit. Mr. Bezos, the event’s honorary chairman, said that, on the advice of Vogue editor Anna Wintour, he will wear a pink pocket square with either a Tom Ford or Prada tuxedo (neither of which is available on Amazon).