Amazon Is Not A Threat If You Focus On Product Quality, Customer Relationships

Debbie head shotI’ve spent a lot of time talking with and listening to innovative retailers recently. As a group, they are excited about their brand identity, unique focus and special relationships with customers. What they don’t spend time on is fretting about whether or not they are effectively competing with Amazon.

While many of the retailers I’ve spoken with are small but growing companies, large companies also can benefit from their successful strategies. Here are four examples of retailers that are succeeding by standing by the authenticity of their brands:



  • Hammitt, a designer handbag retailer: Launched in 2008, Hammitt offers custom-designed handbags sold only at full price, currently distributed through 350 specialty stores in the U.S. “We have stuck to our business model and the promise that our products never go on sale and we are not selling to discounters,” said Tony Drockton, CEO. Customers appreciate the ability to reliably gauge their expectations about quality and price, he added. Additionally, a company executive calls every customer post-purchase just to say “thank you.” 
  • Thos. Baker, a premium outdoor furniture business: Selling custom, made-to-order furniture and accessories, Thos. Baker is succeeding in this very specific segment using traditional marketing tactics that work, including mailing approximately 3 million catalogs each spring and summer. To keep customers coming back, the retailer has added more accessories and products that reach “aspirational buyers,” said Alan Blackford, COO. “Pillows are the ‘crack’ of the outdoor furniture market,” he mused.
  • Mizzen+Main, a manufacturer and retailer of comfort fabric dress shirts and more: Started with an idea and a dream of co-founders Kevin and Jen Lavelle, Mizzen+Main has acquired a number of celebrity followers who are helping to market the brand. The Lavelles have been hyper hands-on from the start and have stuck to the promise of high-quality products and no discounting. Kevin Lavelle explained: “In every single box, we include a note telling people: ‘Thank you for supporting what we’re doing. Thank you for being a part of building the next great American brand, and for helping us show that domestic manufacturing can actually work.’”
  • Shoes of Prey, offering custom-designed footwear. This business really hits home on the personalization scale. Customers choose their style and design each part of their footwear. “We want to give you what you want, when you want it — and even before you know you want it,” said Fox. “Our goal is to collect enough data, so that we can get to know you well enough to do that.”

But Don’t Completely Ignore Amazon

Even though these retailers and many others are succeeding with their unyielding focus on brand promise and personalization, none are 100% safe from competition. It’s important for all retailers to acknowledge the power of Amazon, which, as of 2015, has acquired more than 54 million members for Amazon Prime.

The fact is, consumer spending is up and Amazon is reeling in most of it, with 28% of the consumer spending increase in Q1 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

With Amazon in mind, these retailers must pay attention to every mile of the shopping journey, with particular focus on the first and last miles — from inventory management through shipping and delivery. Both Hammitt and Thos. Baker have implemented NetSuite solutions to update outdated systems, including ERP, CRM and e-Commerce.

Find out more about Shoes of Prey, Mizzen+Main and other retail innovators in the 2016 Retail Innovation Conference wrap-up feature.

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