Industry insiders outline the challenges and opportunities facing Amazon’s new vice-president for fashion.
Susan Saideman needs to establish Amazon as a “destination for fashion” and improve the browsing experience, industry observers said this week.
In her new role, Saideman has responsibility for growing and improving Amazon’s five European websites – in the UK, Germany, French, Italy and Spain – as well as its members-only online shopping club, BuyVIP.
“The main challenge facing Susan is to make Amazon a real destination for shoppers so it is not just about looking for lower value or find something you’ve seen elsewhere cheaper,” said Nivindya Sharma, senior analyst at Verdict Retail.
“It’s got to be an aspirational site people want to browse. Amazon has made some changes to the layout and the landing pages recently, but it is [still] not as good as many of the fashion specialists already operating in the UK and Europe.”
Independent retail analyst Richard Hyman said it is clear Amazon has set its sights firmly on fashion and will become a significant player.
“They are almost riding two horses by signing up more existing brands to sell through the platform and developing their own products, which could be more interesting because they have brought in serious players like [former Marks & Spencer womenswear director] Frances Russell to steer that journey,” he said.
“The issue is if they can differentiate and add value in fashion. There is a big learning to come there because being convenient isn’t enough.”
Sharma agreed that Amazon’s own-label development, which is being led by Russell, is interesting. But she underlined that it will be essential that it provides a point of difference.
“With fashion you can’t be everything to everyone and a lot of the own-brand development in the UK has been at the lower market from the likes of Boohoo and Missguided. How Amazon positions the brand and communicates it to customers is key,” she said.
Saideman joined Amazon in 2013 as head of global vendor management, based in Seattle, before running Amazon’s fashion business in India. During that time she secured a partnership with India Fashion Week, making Amazon the headline sponsor.
She previously worked in roles including president of Mars Retail Group, strategy and finance at Pepsi-Co, consultant at Bain & Company and finance director at KFC.
Bucher joined Debenhams as chief executive this week, replacing Michael Sharp, who confirmed his intention to leave in October last year.
Amazon declined to comment.