I hate buying clothes. Buying online means you never really know if that shirt or those pants will fit. But entering the store means, well, physically going to a mall. It also means awkward moments in a fitting room where I need to get a staff member’s attention to give me a different size or color. Often I don’t care, so I go years between buying new pants.
Yet here I was at Americana at Brand in Glendale, California the weekend before Christmas doing some last minute shopping with my family. Mostly out of curiosity and a bit of cynicism, I walked into Style Amazon, the online retail giant’s clothing boutique concept, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
By fusing its online shopping experience with a revamped high-tech dressing room, it made me want to spend more time looking at clothes. For once, I didn’t feel the rushed embarrassment or anxiety that comes with trying things on in a dressing room. This store is only one of two in the world (the other is in Columbus, Ohio), but hopefully it’s less of an experience and more of how all retailers are starting to think about their shopping experience.
Amazon’s foray into the brick-and-mortar world has been varied and at times confusing. There are fully automated Amazon Go stores where you pick up an item and are automatically charged when you leave. Amazon also has its own supermarket concept along with its chain of Whole Foods Markets. Then there were bookstores and pop-up stores that the company closed this year.
Amazon declined to comment on its plans for the Amazon Style store.
As with Amazon’s other stores, the key to the experience is in its shopping app. At first glance, Amazon Style looks like any other clothing store, with a few trinkets up front and sections for men and women.
But on closer inspection, there are some subtle differences. Each garment appears once – there are no different sizes. Prices are the same as you would pay online, although there are discounts if you spend more. Flanking one side of the store is a row of changing rooms – with several rooms taking up the entire second floor.
It’s these dressing rooms where Amazon Style really shines. Instead of randomly finding an empty room, I use the app to scan a few clothes I want to try on and tell it I want to “start a room.” An employee then collected the selections and put them in a fitting room. After about seven minutes, the app notified me that one was ready and directed me to a specific locker room number that I unlocked using my app.
Once inside, I saw the various shirts and jackets I had scanned hanging on a rack or neatly folded on the shelf below. A few more things were also added based on what Amazon thought I might like. Funnily enough, there was a Calvin Klein shirt on top of the pile, a “sponsored post” that was basically a pop-up ad come to life (I didn’t bother trying).
On the wall to my right was a large touch screen that showed my choices and offered recommendations for other things I liked. I could also request different sizes and styles and have them delivered to my fitting room.
Instead of a store employee knocking on my door and handing me the clothes, the items are delivered from the cupboard to the right of the shelf. It takes a few minutes, but when the items are ready, the cabinet door locks and a red light flashes. Inside, the back of the closet opens so an Amazon Style employee can hang the new clothes. When the red light goes out, I open the door on my side and there they are.
The touchscreen and dressing room take the best parts of the physical and online shopping experience and blend them into an efficient hybrid. It’s so simple, yet it takes a lot of the hassle out of the shopping experience. I entered the store on a whim, but left with a white Adidas shirt.
In fact, I’m looking forward to the next time I have to get new pants. Maybe in 2024?