In the end, the name of Endless.com was a lie. There is an end: Amazon.com (AMZN) will be shutting down its standalone high-end apparel store later this month.
Visitors to Endless.com were greeted with "exciting news" of the Sep. 27 closing. Endless.com will redirect to Amazon.com/fashion, where the leading online retailer is beefing up its fashion-savvy merchandise. "This new style destination will have the latest shoes, handbags and jewelry and watches from an expanded selection of brands," the Endless.com home page explains.
This may all be true, but Amazon.com also sells a wide range of shoes. And you don't see the company closing down its popular Zappos.com subsidiary.
Ah, the Blush of New Love
Remember this?: "Rather than try to go upmarket under its own domain -- as it has in introducing new categories for higher end jewelry and gourmet foods -- Amazon's making a clean break with the store that was launched in beta last month," I wrote in covering the launch of Endless.com just in time for the 2006 holiday shopping season.
A lot has changed since then.
When Amazon got its start, selling media items including books and CDs at discounted prices made sense. Consumers know whether they want a new media item or not, and Amazon offers page samples of books and 30-second song samples of music tracks.
Apparel is a different animal. Potential shoppers may know their sizes, but there's no fitting room in cyberspace. Buyers have to be willing to accept the uncertainty of not truly knowing how they'll look in an item that looks good on a monitor screen -- or how shoes are going to feel on their feet.
Technology is getting better on that fitting front. Some apparel retailers are turning to data crunching. Visitors can pick out items they own that fit well, and the software can find the appropriate matches. It's not perfect, but it'll get there in time.
Amazon itself may not be at the forefront of fashion ordering technology, but we'll see what it has up its sleeves -- or is that "sleeveless"? -- next week.
Speedy deliveries and no-hassle returns will be important parts of any strategy for online retailers dreaming of selling high fashion online. Amazon has been at it long enough to know how to do it right, but it will ultimately be up to Endless.com shoppers to decide if migrating the store to Amazon itself was "exciting news" after all.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Amazon.com.