Amazon.ca is expanding its selection of consumer goods Thursday by launching dedicated clothing and shoe stores on its website, a move that sees the online retailer push its inventory past 100 million items as traditional retailers on the ground continue to falter.
The new offerings will add an additional 1.5 million items to the site, which will include brand names such as Levi's, Dockers, Nautica and Puma. Amazon.ca's selection of goods nearly doubled in the past year.
"We've seen a lot of interest in online shoes and clothing offerings," said Alexandre Gagnon, country manager for Amazon.ca, the Canadian arm of Seattle-based Amazon.com. "We've also seen some activities on our website in terms of customers, what they're looking for and comments from the website.
"Over the past few months, we've been partnering with many vendors and third-party sellers to build an offer and we feel that we're at a point where we can have a clothing and shoe store that our customers can appreciate."
Customers will be able to search for clothing or shoes in multiple ways, including having a store dedicated to particular brands, according to Mr. Gagnon.
The expansion comes at a time of heightened competition in the online retail space. Despite Canada lagging the United States in that area, competition-based moves by the likes of Wal-Mart and Amazon, which include policies regarding free shipping, have been important for customer attraction.
Amazon.ca offers customers its Prime service, a program that provides free shipping across most regions in Canada. The program also offers discounted same-day rates for Toronto and Vancouver.
Wal-Mart, for its part, offers free shipping on orders over $50, a policy that was scaled back from free shipping on most items in response to easing competition after Target Canada closed its stores in the country earlier this year.
"We are focused on the biggest selection possible," Mr. Gagnon said. "We want to have the biggest delivery possible – we will have free shipping above $25 and we also will be offering free returns."
As online retailing expands in Canada, traditional retailers on the ground continue to falter. Over the past five years, closings have claimed big names including Target Canada, Future Shop, Sony, Mexx, SmartSet, Jacob, Zellers and, this week, Black's Photo.
Numbers provided by Statistics Canada show that the retail and wholesale-trade industry saw the largest declines in job opportunities in the summer for returning students ages 20 to 24, a loss of 15,495 jobs from last May.
Yet, the online space continues to expand.
"The past few years have been very busy for us," Mr. Gagnon said. "We've expanded in 20-plus categories, and we've done that in a certain order depending on the complexities, the categories and also what the customers wanted."