How Sustainable is Amazon’s New “Try Before You Buy” Prime Wardrobe Service?
Do you enjoy online shopping? If so, you’ll be happy to find out about Amazon’s new service for its Prime Members: Amazon Prime Wardrobe. So how does it work?:
- Customers pick a minimum of 3 (to a maximum of 15 ) clothing items or accessories from over one million items available on Amazon Fashion. Besides its own house brands Amazon offers many other brands such as Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Adidas, Timex, and “higher end” brands like Theory, Hugo Boss and J Brand jeans.
- Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe will be available to Prime members at no extra charge.
- The customer then has seven days to try on the items and decide what to keep. Unwanted items are shipped back to Amazon.com. The promotional video mentions that you can leave the box on your doorstep and it’ll be picked up by UPC. Ahmmm ok… good luck with leaving your box on the doorstep if you live in the city…
- Items get cheaper the more you buy. If a customer keeps five or more items in a Prime Wardrobe order, he or she will get 20% off those items. That discount falls to 10% when you keep three or four items.
Is this a new concept?
In theory this concept of a fashion subscription box is not a new one. Amazon provides a service similar to those offered by Trunk Club (owned by Nordstrom) and Stitch Fix. There are also capsule wardrobe boxes, beauty products and even a few sustainable fashion box services. I think the biggest difference between this and the subscription boxes is the online catalog. Subscription box services usually pick the items for the customer based on the customer’s style. Amazon customers can select the pieces they want out of over a million items.
Ok, so now the concept is clear let’s look at the sustainability aspect.
The Amazon Prime Wardrobe service has a few clear plus and minus points that I’d like to discuss with you. The first are the positive points.
The positive points:
- Amazon provides re-usable boxes that can be used to return the unwanted items.
- Since we get to keep the items for a whole week free of charge, we have plenty of time to see if they fit properly and go well together with the rest of our wardrobe.
- On the one hand, incentivizing consumers to order multiple items is positive not just in terms of lower shipping/handling costs for Amazon, but the bulk purchase makes shipping more sustainable. On the other hand, rewarding bulk shopping encourages consumerism and excess.
The not so positive points:
- How sustainable is online shopping? If you Google articles from 10 years ago, online shopping was seen as a positive step towards sustainability. The hope was that the total number of vehicle miles travelled would decrease with the growth of the online shopping. In fact, the opposite is true: people are using the time they save by shopping on the internet to do other things like eating out at restaurants, going to the movies, or visiting friends… All while driving. And we are still going to the actual shops. Only now we are checking out the items “for real” and then purchasing them at a better rate online.
Did you know that at least 30% of all products ordered online are returned as compared to 8.89% in brick-and-mortar stores? Simple fact is that until the technology catches up and provides us with some sort of body scan to minimize the return rate, online shopping is not that sustainable.
Did you know that at least 30% of all products ordered online are returned as compared to 8.89% in brick-and-mortar stores?
- Monopolization of retail, standardized & cheap merchandise takes its toll on artisans and small businesses. Handcrafts are endangered all over the world, as artisans can’t compete from a price standpoint with goods that are mass-produced.
So what is my advice to Amazon to make the Prime Wardrobe Service more sustainable?
- Focus on inventing the body scanner. The technology is almost there. I know that you’ve just come up with Echo Look (The device is a sort of standalone selfie machine so users can take full-length photos and videos of themselves specifically for the sake of checking their fashion choices in the morning), but the body scanner is the only way to minimize the merchandise return rate. By scanning our bodies we will not only be able to know our exact size but also see from every angle what we would actually look like in an outfit. I know there will be a lot of negative response along the lines of: “this is a lot of sensitive information you’ll be collecting: my size, my wardrobe”, or “do we need another camera in the bedroom?”. But I do think the benefit of lower CO2 emissions will be worth it… at least for me!
- Look into adding more sustainable fashion brands to the list of Amazon Fashion Brands & please look into incorporating a more sustainable and ethical practice into your own house brands. There are already some sustainable and eco clothing on Amazon Fashion… but we want more… way more!
And what can we do to make online shopping more sustainable?
Avoid impulse buys: Ask yourself this simple question every time you want to click “add to cart”: Do I really need this?