Is Amazon Really That Unappealing to Luxury Brands?

According to new research, yes.
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Eliza Brooke
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According to new research, yes.
A look from Kate Spade's fall collection. Photo: Imaxtree

A look from Kate Spade's fall collection. Photo: Imaxtree

Almost exactly a year after opening a 40,000-square-foot photo studio in Brooklyn, Amazon has announced its intentions to open a similarly massive facility in Shoreditch, London. The purpose of both was and is to shoot fashion product images, a very tangible manifestation of the company's deepening investment in the vertical following the launch of Amazon Fashion in 2012.

So Amazon loves fashion. But does fashion love Amazon?

According to a new study from the research firm L2, the answer may be a big nope, at least when it comes to luxury brands. Of the many product categories Amazon plays in, high-end fashion labels have showed a particular aversion to selling through the e-commerce giant, with just 16 percent of 32 luxury brands L2 tracked electing to participate on the site. 

A rep for Amazon declined to comment on the company's work with luxury retailers for this story.

That figure on brands' willingness to work with Amazon is especially striking when compared to the company's other fashion-centric properties. The Amazon-owned flash sales site MyHabit features 81 percent of those same brands, while Shopbop carries 44 percent of them.

Those who do work with Amazon tend to fall on the less exclusive end of the spectrum. Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Kate Spade, Cole Haan and DVF all officially sell on Amazon, while brands like Chanel, Chloé, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana don't. But even relatively affordable labels like Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren and Lacoste have elected to steer clear of Amazon. Many of them may be leery of appearing on what is often thought of as a discount site — Michael Kors is even avoiding promotions in its own sales channels this holiday season in a bid to firm up its status as a "luxury" brand.

Not that brands always have a say in whether or not their goods end up on Amazon. According to a study L2 released this summer, Amazon carries an average of 1,576 items for brands that don't officially distribute on the site. Some of that comes through eyewear and fragrance licensees, some of it is overstock. Some is counterfeit.

The good news for the fashion brands that do sell on Amazon is that price fluctuations appear to be much less volatile than they are in other verticals. Amazon is constantly adjusting prices on its products — a reported 2.5 million times each day — in reaction to prices listed by other online retailers and third-party merchants on its own site. 

Kate Spade bags, for instance, remain at relatively stable levels over the course of a month; one style held entirely steady at $295 throughout the entire period.

Maybe that information will help motivate brands to get on board with Amazon Fashion. And the e-tailer would do well to have its UK fashion division give its American counterparts some pointers: The British wing has an excellent track record of producing collaborations with hot, young British talent like Osman and Meadham Kirchhoff, partnerships that Vogue UK has even called "covetable." 

That's what we'd call industry cachet.