If the rumours are to be believed, Amazon wants to equip its new mini department stores in the United States with high-tech fitting rooms. In time, customers would even be served by robots.
About a month ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that the e-commerce giant had concrete plans for a number of smaller department stores. The first two stores would be in Ohio and California. The same newspaper now writes that the retailer is working on developing advanced fitting rooms that - in true Amazon style - could transform the way we buy clothes.
In the department store, shoppers can use their smartphones to scan the QR codes of the products they want to try on. An employee will then collect them and lay them out for the customer in the fitting room. Via a touch screen, customers can request additional items. The system will also make suggestions based on the items of clothing already chosen. Amazon eventually wants to automate the process completely, with robots taking the requested items to the dressing rooms and delivering them to the customer.
According to the latest reports, the department stores will place a strong emphasis on the e-tailer's own-brand products. In addition, there would be room for a mix of clothing brands that are already present on the Amazon website. Although none of this has been officially confirmed yet, Charged Retail rightly notes that the set-up fits in perfectly with the modus operandi of the American company.
Amazon's efforts come at a time when traditional department stores are in serious decline. American giants JC Penny and Sears, along with British giants such as Debenhams and House of Fraser, have all gone out of business in recent years or have sharply reduced their store bases.
The remaining department stores, such as John Lewis in the UK, are now busy modernising their operations after years of delaying the adoption of digital technology. It makes the sector ripe for disruption.