Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. Not only is Amazon getting more involved in apparel retailing, it is also patenting a unique custom-clothing process.
“This year, Amazon will surpass Macy’s to become the largest seller of apparel in America, by several analysts’ estimates. It is looking at ways to keep expanding, too. Amazon is exploring the possibility of selling custom-fit clothing, tailored to the more precise measurements of customers, and it has considered acquiring clothing manufacturers to further expand its presence in the category.”
“If there are tipping points in retail — moments when shopping behavior swings decisively in one direction — there’s a strong case to be made that apparel is reaching one now, with broad implications for jobs, malls, and shopping districts.”
Also for the New York Times, Wingfield and Kelly Couturier describe Amazon’s customization effort:
“In April , Amazon received an intriguing patent for an ‘on demand’ apparel manufacturing system, which can quickly fill online orders for suits, dresses and other garments. Here’s how it would work. (1) The process starts when customers submit online orders to the retailer for shirts and other articles of clothing, accessories, bedding, curtains, and towels. The patterns, printed onto rolls of fabric or other material, are arranged to reduce scrap.”
“(2) A “cut engine” then carves out the various pattern pieces, while cameras analyze them to make sure they aren’t being distorted in the process. (3) A robotic arm with a mechanical gripper places all the pieces into a tote on a conveyor belt. (4) The conveyor belt delivers the totes to a sewing station, where ‘an attendant and/or automated sewing machine’ stitches the item together. The items are then examined at a quality control station, packed up and shipped to customers.”
Click the image for many other figures that visually highlight Amazon’s customization process.