If Amazon opens mini department stores as rumored, they could include high-tech dressing rooms and the retailer's own private-label clothing brands, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The aim is apparently to address some of the normal irritants of clothes shopping, increase its own brand recognition and make the stores as efficient as possible.
One idea is that customers would use a smartphone app to scan QR codes of items they want to try on. Associates would then gather the items and place them in fitting rooms, and the process could eventually become more automated with the use of robots.
Once inside, you'd be able to ask for more clothes using a touchscreen, which could also recommend items you might like based on what you've chosen so far. Those could again be brought by associates and slid through a sliding door that would maintain your privacy.
In the past, Amazon has showcased other high-tech shopping experiences, like AR that would show how your hair would look with different hair dyes. It has also patented a mirror for trying on virtual clothes, but there's no sign yet that it would use such technology in department stores. It also sold the Echo Look camera, a standalone device that gave owners fashion advice using artificial intelligence and machine learning (below), though it was discontinued last year.
Amazon will also reportedly sell its own private label brands, along with a selection of clothing from third-party manufacturers. On top of its own Amazon Essentials line, its online store currently carries products from designers like Oscar de la Renta, Altuzarra and La Perla. However, many luxury and high-end brands — which have the highest profitability — have resisted listing goods online with Amazon.
Reports of Amazon department stores started popping up last month, with sites tipped to be around a third the size of regular department stores. At 30,000 square feet, however, they'd still be larger than Amazon's other physical locations other than Whole Foods.
Even as some physical retailers including JC Penney and Niemen Marcus filed for bankruptcy, Amazon saw sales explode during the pandemic as users shopped online from home. However, customers surveyed recently by Wells Fargo said they preferred the physical department store experience and didn't want to pay for shipping if they weren't Prime members, the WSJ noted. On top of clothing, Amazon's department stores would reportedly allow it to showcase electronics like Fire TVs, readers, Echo speakers and more.
All of this is still a rumor which hasn't been confirmed by Amazon, so take it with some skepticism. Considering how quickly the company is expanding into brick-and-mortar retail right now, though, it does make sense.