In this report, we showcase the findings of our recent online survey of US consumers, a sizable proportion of whom had bought clothing or footwear on Amazon during the past 12 months. We explore how many US consumers are buying apparel on Amazon, which retailers these shoppers have switched their spending from, what clothing and footwear brands and categories they are buying on Amazon, their attitudes toward Amazon Fashion and its offerings, and where else, besides Amazon Fashion, they shop for apparel. Throughout this report, “apparel” refers to both clothing and footwear.
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So read this book with the understanding that Underhill is a pretty good anthropologically-trained note taker,whose observations have turned up several things of interest to the retailer, at the same time that he is a pathetically bad business consultant and would-be futurist, with a pathological need to self-promote and a very annoying prose style.
“I think, effectively, you have a company that has conspired with about a billion consumers and technology to destroy brands,” argued Scott Galloway, a founder of business research firm now called Gartner L2 and a professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business, in a presentation last year. “Their attitude is that brands have, for a long time, earned an unearned price premium that screws consumers.”
The question at this point is valuation. At roughly 10x revenue and 63x forward EPS, ETSY isn’t cheap, even by the standards of high-margin platform stocks. As Josh Enomoto pointed out in August, the arts & crafts industry isn’t growing. Industry leader Michaels Companies (NASDAQ:MIK) has said the same thing — and it’s rolling out an Etsy competitor of its own next year.
Amazon also offers its own Elements line of products, only available to Prime members. The product line ranges from baby wipes to vitamins. The idea is that Amazon goes the extra mile of telling you exactly where the product came from. In the case of those wipes, I can tell you liquid inside is 97.9 percent pharmaceutical-grade purified water from the White Lick Creek Aquifer in Moorseville, Indiana.
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And while Amazon’s brands have quickly gained market share on its platform in some areas, in other segments, such as apparel, they account for less than 1 percent of the inventory sold. And when broadened out to include brick-and-mortar stores, its online share of the battery market equals less than 5 percent. Until Amazon’s share of the total market starts to reach closer to 40 percent or more, it is difficult to argue there is an attempted-monopolization case, say legal experts.
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Those huge margins, for essentially being a middleman, also made GWW an obvious target for Amazon. And so the launch of Amazon Business seemed an enormous threat to Grainger’s business. Amazon presented a new rival, one of very few who could match Grainger’s supply chain and distribution capabilities. In the worst-case scenario, Amazon could in theory decimate Grainger’s business. Even in a better outcome, Grainger would seem forced to lower prices to compete.
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Those risks led GWW stock to essentially stall out starting in 2013. And they came home to roost last year. Disappointing earnings — particularly, falling margins — seemed to signal that pressure from Amazon was a real problem. By September, GWW traded at its lowest levels in almost six years. Grainger seemed destined to be another dominant business undone by a nimbler online competitor.
Amazon Prime membership in Germany, the United Kingdom, India, and the United States also provides Amazon Video, the instant streaming of selected movies and TV shows at no additional cost. In November 2011, it was announced that Prime members have access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows users to borrow certain popular Kindle e-books for free reading on Kindle hardware, up to one book a month, with no due date.