The popular Dutch online retailer Bol.com is expected to start selling fashion in early 2020. Several sources indicate that Amazon is due to launch a full marketplace service in the Netherlands from Q1 of 2020.
Bol.com already sells sportswear, underwear and footwear and stocks brands such as Adidas, Calvin Klein and Lacoste.
The decision to add fashion to the online retailer comes at a potentially challenging time for the retailer. Amazon.nl has previously been an Amazon book store, but is planning a full marketplace launch in early 2020. When that happens, marketplace Bol.com will face competition from Amazon across all sectors.
Bol.com might decide that its competitive advantage can be maintained through innovation that’s relevant to the local market.
One area of innovation is around sustainability. Bol.com recently a launched a section fo the site dedicated to sustainable items, where 6,500 lines have verified sustainable credentials or are created by social entrepreneurs. Bol.com also sells refurbished items.
Bol.com has also developed its Christmas offering, with a dedicated online Christmas store and creating a personalised Christmas story using Google Home voice assistant.
However, adding an expanded clothing range to Bol.com might not be enough to avoid shoppers visiting Amazon.nl for clothes in 2020. It will be interesting to see if Amazon enters the region with its Prime Wardrobe feature, or not. Prime Wardrobe is a program for Prime members that lets you try clothes before you buy them in the comfort of your home.
The battleground for sales in the region may centre around how well each retailer can serve the local market. While Amazon is hiring Dutch-speaking Vendor managers and local advertising sales teams, Amazon is likely to initially serve The Netherlands with stock held on the German border. Bol.com offers delivery and 6,260 pick-up points across The Netherlands and Belgium.
Bol.com launched in 1999 as online bookstore Bertelsmann Online and was bought by retail group Ahold Delhaize in 2012. Brands were able to run ads on the platform in 2016, while the first fulfilment centre opened in 2017, and the business has invested in machine learning and AI research since 2018.