Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Amazon Hears Wedding Bells

Seattle - Amazon is looking to grab a share of the $50 billion wedding industry.

The company's new Amazon Wedding registry pulls together Amazon retailer and vendor partners large and small across 25 product categories. Reflecting today's broader definition of what's registry-worthy, those categories include tools and hardware, personal technology such as home theaters, and sporting goods.

Registry pages offer product recommendations pulled together by Amazon project managers. The pages also contain a few paid links to sellers of similar merchandise.

"A lot of what we speced were items that our customers have been asking for," said Kerry Morris, divisional manager, Home & Garden Store. "We've really tried to access everybody. But brands like Henkels, Riedel and Lenox are going to naturally rise to the top."

The registry is the latest step of Amazon's thrust into home. The bedding category has been an area of particular focus over the past year, said Morris, who joined Amazon from Wal-Mart International, where she was global sourcing and private label manager.

"If you look at bedding, which is a newer category for us, in the last year we've launched 30 to 40 brands, and that's just the beginning," she said.

Amazon looks for retail partners (currently including Macy's, JCPenney and Target) as well as vendor brands to link with, which in bedding includes a large serving of WestPoint Stevens Martex brand. When Amazon approaches a vendor about a brand, "We want to put up their full assortment," Morris said. "That's something a retailer can't do."

Although Amazon buyers have just begun to visit overseas trade shows, they have been actively scouring the New York Home Textiles Market (including the mini-markets), the High Point show, the New York International Gift Fair and other gift shows, Morris said.

"We're always striving for a very comprehensive mix," she added.

The new wedding registry also boasts comprehensiveness. If offers 150 wedding planning guides on 15 topics ranging from the engagement, preparation, day-of and post-wedding stages, providing instructions, ideas (such has how to determine what style of wedding best suits the couple) and tips.

A Yellow Pages link directs couples to vendors and service providers such as florists and caterers in their region.

The registry guide offers advice about how to select everything from sheets and bake ware to home theaters and digital cameras. A registry checklist helps couples keep track of what they've requested and recommends product quantities. A Thank You list provides couples with the names and addresses associated with each gift to ease the task of sending thank you notes after the event.

Amazon has also teamed with The MiMi Girls - Michele Adams and Gia Russo - authors of Wedding Showers and hosts of The Art of the Party on the Fine Living Network. They also offer tips and suggestions.

Said Adams: "Weddings, like couples today, are becoming more casual. A lot of couples are paying for their own wedding, so they're very budget-conscious."