Instead of forcing customers to trawl through clothing racks, only one of each item will be displayed. Customers will then scan the QR codes of their choice to see sizes, colours and customer ratings. They can then send the item in their chosen size and colour to the pickup counter, or directly to a changing room.
In the fitting room, accessed through the app, customers will find the items they have selected. They can then use the touchscreen monitor to request other sizes or new items. The clothes will be brought in “minutes”, Amazon said, using technology already deployed at its order fulfilment centres.
Shoppers will be able to use Amazon’s palm-scanning system, Amazon One, to pay during checkout. Prices will be the same online and in store, so customers can purchase items later after saving them in the shopping app.
The company did not say when exactly the store would open, what brands it would stock, or how many it aims to build. Currently its online store carries products from high-end designers such as Oscar de la Renta, whose perfume is sold on the site, but many luxury brands have decided against selling through Amazon.
The company, founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, has become the largest clothing retailer in America since it started selling clothes in 2002. However, more than 85 per cent of American clothing sales still take place in physical stores, reflecting customers’ desire to feel and try clothes before parting with their money.
Sending items directly to a changing room is something that Nike has already implemented at its flagship stores.
Physical clothes shops will represent a new front for Amazon, which began by selling books online and has expanded into cloud computing, digital content streaming, smartphones and grocery stores. It now has about 750,000 warehouse workers in the US alone, but has faced criticism over working conditions, including allegations that workers were unable to take breaks during long shifts. Amazon has opposed efforts by workers to unionise.
In 2017 it bought Whole Foods, the upmarket fresh food stores, for $13.7 billion and in 2015 opened Amazon Books in Seattle. The company is also growing a line of cashierless Amazon Fresh supermarkets.