“One out of every three new customers on e-commerce platform Amazon India start their shopping in the fashion category.”

Or so Mayank Shivam, director of category management at Amazon Fashion, claimed a couple of months back. Impressive, until you realise the same claim was made back in 2017. In fact, the company’s business head Arun Sirdeshmukh has made many grand announcements—Amazon has “the fastest growing online fashion marketplace”; it is in “the top four countries for fashion (following the US, Europe and Japan)”; it is “the single largest fashion destination”.

And yet, one quick Google search on its (well-anticipated) 48-hour Prime Day sales in India last week would take one through a slew of articles on mobiles and electronics sales spikes—ranging from Honor to the iPhone.

Nothing at all about fashion though. Interesting!

Even more when you consider the stranglehold that Amazon’s nemesis, Walmart-owned Flipkart, has on fashion in India. While Amazon’s executives continue to project fashion as the company’s strength, Flipkart has systematically built a veritable army, helped in no small part by its ownership of India’s leading fashion websites, Myntra and Jabong. 

Flipkart acquired Myntra for $300 million in May 2014, the year Amazon started its fashion operations in India. Flipkart then fought off tough competition, including reportedly from Amazon, to acquire Jabong for $70 million in July 2016.  

Since then, Amazon has committed to investing $5 billion to grow its retail footprint in India. And while that has helped it compete effectively overall, its fashion business has come up short against the formidable Flipkart-Myntra-Jabong triumvirate. Amazon partnered with offline retailer Shoppers Stop, but that did not fare so well. (We wrote about the struggling marriage here.) Amazon has never recovered from Flipkart’s one-two sucker punch, and while it has repeatedly denied it lags behind, it has never disclosed numbers to back it up. 

It’s not that Amazon fashion is doing poorly in India, but that it has remained in stasis. The numbers bear evidence. While Flipkart, Myntra and Jabong (FMJ) together hold 70% of India’s online fashion retail, Amazon is barely in the rear-view mirror with 21%, an industry insider said. 

In fact, some industry sources says Flipkart Fashion, on its own, is bigger than Myntra. Today, nearly 60-65% of Flipkart’s shipments are fashion and fashion accessories, but that yields only 20-25% of sales. That’s because its average selling price (ASP), as far as its fashion catalogue is concerned, is half of Myntra’s. Amazon’s top-sellers in fashion are accessories—a low-ASP, low-margin category with high shipping costs. It has yet to figure out a way to compete against Myntra in the high-margin sub-categories.

AUTHOR

Abinaya Vijayaraghavan

Abinaya is a Bengaluru-based writer, covering the sprawling and exciting world of Indian e-commerce. When she is not trying to understand alpha sellers and complex supply chains, she enjoys travelling and playing badminton. Abinaya was previously a reporter at Reuters.

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