Amazon shoppers in Britain can now add high-fashion purchases, such as a four-figure Peter Dundas evening gown or a Christopher Kane slingback heel, to their digital shopping baskets.
The world’s largest online retailer has launched its Luxury Stores at Amazon division in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, having opened a US version in 2020.
In an effort to elevate Amazon’s virtual shop window, the Luxury Stores microsite shows videos of models including Kristen McMenamy and Precious Lee posing in a European villa. It features nine designers including Elie Saab, Altuzarra and Jonathan Cohen.
The Norwegian designer Dundas, who has been selling on the US version since 2020, has had sales grow to up to 30% of his direct-to-consumer business.
“Amazon has shown that convenience is the new luxury,” said Akiko Takashima, Dundas’s chief marketing officer. “We used to look at Amazon as a marketplace for household goods. But now, with its strong returns policy, there is a new confidence around buying big-ticket items there.”
After a nervous start, where sales were mostly entry-point items such as face masks for £25 and activewear, in the past six months higher-priced pieces have taken over, with Dundas’s embellished evening gowns “flying” – one customer even buying four at once.
The luxury fashion brands are expected to offer free delivery and returns and are given the choice to distribute through their own warehouses or Amazon’s, which the website makes clear at the point of purchase.
Takashima said they had not seen any difference in the level of returns compared with their regular e-commerce sales. “Amazon is important to the business – the results show that,” she said. “I foresee Amazon being a substantial part of our revenue.”
However, the retail expert Mary Portas questioned whether Amazon could pull off luxury fashion retail. “Have they got Burberry, have they got Gucci, have they got Dries? It doesn’t sound like the top brands on Net-a-Porter.”
Acknowledging the lure of convenience for shoppers, she added: “Of course, Amazon will answer that. But let’s not forget the pleasure of designer shopping when you’re spending that sort of dosh.”
Portas pointed out that the existing digital players – Net-a-Porter, Matches, MyTheresa – are getting “more and more sophisticated in their offer – with luxury, it’s all about the curation and the edit. I’ve never seen Amazon play the beautiful game.”
Portas is not nostalgic for the traditional high street and how Amazon has and might continue to affect it. “Digital is here, and it’s going to stay.”
Amazon’s competitive advantage is its access to data. “Let’s face it,” said Portas. “Amazon will have enough logistics and insights to make sure that when you click on a brand, Amazon comes knocking first.”