Amazon kicks off fashion attack on Aussie retailers

RW Myer CEO Richard Umbers and Chairman  Garry Hounsell in the Birdcage. Photo by Jesse Marlow,. .
RW Myer CEO Richard Umbers and Chairman Garry Hounsell in the Birdcage. Photo by Jesse Marlow,. .

The largest assault on Australia's retail sector in decades has begun, with key Amazon executives flying into Australia during Melbourne Cup week in preparation for a pre-Christmas launch of the global retail giant's fashion brands.

BusinessDayhas been told that Amazon deliberately chose Melbourne Cup week, when key rival Myer is partying at the races, to begin its foray into the local market.

The move is being co-ordinated by Prateek Ranjan, Amazon's Seattle-based head of marketing and international expansion. Mr Ranjan was previously the head of Amazon Fashion, and is now responsible for "expanding Amazon's footprint in new countries across the globe".

Amazon's New-York-based global production manager Nickole Brown is leading the biggest series of fashion shoots Melbourne has ever seen. Amazon is scheduled to undertake three fashion shoots per day, five days per week, at secret locations across Melbourne over the next month.

Ms Brown's international production team arrived in the city on Melbourne Cup day. That team includes Amazon's India-based production shoot manager Anisha Bhardwaj, who put out a request on LinkedIn for "E-commerce Product and On-body Photographers, Stylists and make up artists based out of Melbourne" three weeks ago.

"I have never seen anything like this in Australia," said a member of Amazon's Australian operations.

"I have seen major shoots for the big department stores, but nothing to this scale. Three shoots per day is unheard of, let alone every day of the week."

The first Amazon fashion shoot is scheduled for Monday morning.

"With Amazon's quick turnaround, they will be operational in the online fashion market in Australia by early December at the latest," BusinessDay was told.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company could not comment on its future plans.

Fashion attack

Amazon first confirmed its entry to Australia in April and industry watchers had been expecting a pre-Christmas launch, but the e-commerce giant has been tight-lipped about what its initial product offering will look like.

Citi analysts Bryan Raymond and Craig Woolford expect that Amazon will launch locally before the Black Friday shopping event on November 24.

They say electronics, clothing and footwear will be the key categories for Amazon when it starts trading, making Myer, Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi the local retailers most likely to be negatively affected.

In other markets Amazon sells other brands' apparel as well as its own private label clothing, including men's and women's basics, business attire, children's wear, and a recently launched sportswear range.

Amazon has registered trademarks in Australia on brands including AmazonBasics, which sell mass market products covering everything from electronics to kitchenware.

It has also recently registered its vitamins and supplements brand Elements, the snack and pantry staples brands Happy Belly and Wickedly Prime, and the sweets and chocolate brand Surprise.

Mama Bear, Amazon's range of baby products including nappies and infant food, has also been registered.

While Amazon is not expected to steal significant market share initially, analysts say it will hurt incumbent retailers by forcing them to drop prices to remain competitive.

Amazon has taken over a 24,000-square-metre warehouse in Melbourne's outer east and is converting it into a distribution centre, where it will fulfil and ship orders.

Amazon will host a Marketplace Summit in Sydney on Monday for 500 Australian merchants that have signed up to Amazon's Australian platform.

It is understood merchants will be told by the company's Australian chief Rocco Braeuniger that Amazon will be operational in time for this Christmas season.

Amazon's head of seller services for Australia, Fabio Bertola, will detail how the local Amazon platform will operate.

This story Amazon kicks off fashion attack on Aussie retailers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.