Are Amazon’s Calvin Klein Exclusives Good For The Brands?

Calvin Klein is offering Amazon customers exclusive styles in the two CALVIN KLEIN X Amazon Fashion pop-up stores, as well as online at The stores, open until Dec. 31, also are showcasing the latest Amazon technologies, including:

Fitting rooms with Amazon Echo devices, allowing shoppers to ask Alexa questions about Calvin Klein products and control the lighting and music;
Content creation stations to encourage shoppers to create shareable media clips; and
• Lounges with video calling to connect the bi-coastal stores in New York City’s SoHo and Santa Monica, Calif.

The partnership represents another step into fashion apparel for Amazon, and a high-profile venue for Calvin Klein during a key selling season. But several members of the RetailWire Brain Trust fear the relationship signifies further erosion of department stores as brand-building locations. Additionally, there’s a danger that Calvin Klein could damage its relationship with other retailers, even as it seeks to go where the shoppers are — namely, on Amazon.


Mark Ryski, CEO, HeadCount Corporation
Calvin Klein’s decision is part of a broader movement by brands to prioritize Amazon ahead of other channels — like department stores. Ultimately, brands will focus on the channels that provide access to the markets they care about and Amazon’s ability to do this is undeniable. Exclusives are powerful differentiators, but Amazon is also about endless selection. While important, I’m not certain that exclusives are as important to Amazon as they are for most every other retailer.

Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions
Increasingly, brands must go to where the customers are — and increasingly that first stop of the customer journey is Amazon.

Beyond the exclusive brand deals with Amazon, the list of bullet points of what is occurring in the Amazon pop-up stores should strike FEAR in the hearts of retailers with stores. As described, Amazon’s pop-ups are offering a more comprehensive, more creative and more engaging customer experience than you can find in any traditional store. Amazon’s foray into reinventing stores for peak customer engagement and personalization is far more of a threat than exclusive offerings with brands.

Phil Masiello, CEO, Hound Dog Digital Agency
This move sends a clear signal to department stores, that Amazon is far more important to a brand’s growth than traditional retail. Fashion brands may want to re-evaluate their Amazon strategy as well and get into the game while fashion is still in its infancy on Amazon. But Calvin Klein is smart. Amazon is where the consumer is shopping today and developing that relationship with Amazon is the right thing to do to stay relevant to the consumer. Brands, in general, are a bigger part of Amazon’s growth push. Migrating away from an open marketplace with multiple sellers competing on price, to a more controlled marketplace selling brands is Amazon’s future. Hence the development of the improved Brand Registry.

Amazon is the department store of the future.

Chuck Palmer, Principal Strategist, ConsumerX Retail
Amazon Fashion + Calvin Klein.


This feels more like a desperation play for both. If Amazon is seeking fashion credibility, I’m not sure Calvin Klein is going to deliver that. This feels like PVH and Amazon convincing themselves this is a good idea; it seems like it is much more about marketing (by throwing mud against a wall to see what sticks) than it is about consumer relevance.

Regardless, the data will be assimilated and resistance is futile.

Ben Ball, SVP, Dechert-Hampe
Exclusives are a great fit for Amazon. The “virtual shelf” provides the perfect operational environment for one-off and exclusive line promotion. The strategy also fits Amazon’s goal of being a mainline retailer. Just as Target leveraged exclusive designer lines to differentiate, so can Amazon.

Neil Saunders, Managing Director, GlobalData
Department stores have only themselves to blame for this. They have long since lost their status as one of the primary channels through which consumers want to discover new and premium products. Calvin Klein’s decision is just part of the shift to brands seeking out more effective routes to market.

Peter Messana, SVP Product, GroupBy Inc.
I think these decisions by suppliers are bad long-term for the short-term pop they will get. It is like getting in bed with the devil — they are giving up on all other channels by pushing Amazon as the number one channel and this would kill off any DTC channel they may have as well. If they went with only a small subset of products to grow brand that would seem to be more effective and a good use case. I suppose if you don’t believe your brand is strong enough that people will seek it then this is a fine idea, but I would rather build a brand that people seek than a brand of convenience.

Roy White, Editor-at-large, RetailWire
Amazon has been reaching out in all directions, both retailer and supplier, in the past year — the acquisition of Whole Foods and the partnerships with Kohl’s and Sears, for example — to create a more powerful selling entity. This is another step in that direction; it will make Amazon a more dangerous competitor with a high-visibility exclusivity. For Calvin Klein, it’s a good move that recognizes that the balance of competitive power between brick-and-mortar merchants and online retailing is altering.

Mohamed Amer, Global Head of Strategic Communications, Consumer Industries, SAP
In the mid-1990s I had the privilege of working with Levi’s on a new go-to-market strategy that included a new demand fulfillment model by “going where the customers shop.” For a brand like Levi’s that meant distributing significant volume into Walmart — a highly controversial decision at that time.

Today’s Amazon has many parallels with the disruptive role that Walmart played for branded manufacturers 25 years ago. These are strategic decisions with long-term impact on brand equity, growth and margins and should not be taken lightly. In the case of Calvin Klein (and PVH overall), this is a necessary step to remain in sync with how consumers shop and experience their products.

For Amazon, exclusive tie-ups create further excitement and more reasons to shop Amazon. Over the longer term, these will help to establish a fashion connection with the Amazon brand.

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