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Amazon’s foray into luxury fashion will hit struggling department stores

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Amazon announces the launch of luxury stores.

Source: Amazon

Amazon’s foray into luxury fashion is the latest blow this year to U.S. department stores, which have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The e-commerce company announced on Tuesday the launch of a section on its mobile app called Luxury Stores, featuring items from designer Oscar de la Renta’s pre-fall and fall-winter 2020 collections. He said additional luxury fashion brands will be added to the app in the coming weeks.

Only Amazon Prime members will initially be able to purchase this section by invitation, according to Amazon. But the invitations will be extended to more customers over time, he said. Amazon’s luxury stores will include interactive features such as 360-degree viewing, which allows shoppers to view items on different body types and different skin tones.

High-end department stores that sell designer groups like Oscar de la Renta are increasingly out of fashion with shoppers. This year alone, Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor filed for bankruptcy. The latter, which is the oldest chain of department stores in the country, is in liquidation. Neiman Marcus is still coming out of bankruptcy, but is also closing stores, including its recently opened flagship at Hudson Yards shopping center in Manhattan. Barneys New York went bankrupt last year. Saks Fifth Avenue has closed its department store for men in downtown New York.

Fashion brands that have long relied on these stores to give them distribution channels to market themselves are suddenly much more dependent on their own stores and websites or are looking for other partners, like Amazon.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette recently spoke about the opportunity he saw in the luxury clothing industry, with a number of high-end department store chains going bankrupt and leaving market share to to win.

“Bloomingdale’s are having a good time,” he said of Macy’s upscale department store banner. “We have brands in our arsenal that we didn’t have before that are looking for additional distribution.”

Amazon said Oscar de la Renta’s team will be able to make independent decisions about its assortment, pricing, delivery options and customer service.

Over the past year, Amazon said its customers have ordered more than a billion fashion items through its mobile app. Amazon said it has over 150 million paying Prime members.

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