Your next set of clothes from Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) might be manufactured on demand. The Seattle-based company was recently granted a patent that enables custom production of clothing after a customer has placed an order.
"Many aspects of apparel manufacturing processes are relatively time consuming and require the coordination of many different geographically dislocated suppliers, vendors, manufacturers and retailers," the company wrote. Based on a description provided in the patent, the system consists of a textile printer, textile cutter and computing device that aggregates and processes orders and configures instructions for remaining devices in the system. The system kicks into action once an order is placed and can manufacture clothes in batches based on previous customer orders. The patent does not mention the amount of time that the system will take to manufacture clothes, nor does it indicate any cost savings to the manufacturing process. (See also: Amazon's Clothing Business Is Bigger Than You Think.)
Amazon has a rapidly growing apparel business and is expected to surpass rival Macy's, Inc. (M) to become the top clothing retailer in the U.S. by the end of this year. Amazon already has eight in-house brands that make clothes targeted at various demographics, including teens and athletes. However, premium brands are yet to advertise their wares on the site. In lieu of this, Amazon has chosen to cast itself as a purveyor of "contemporary fashion." (See also: Amazon Pushing Its Own Clothes, Live Fashion Show.)
Other contemporary fashion brands, such as H&M and Zara, have seen sales skyrocket in recent years as millennials, who prefer private labels to expensive fashion brands, flock to their stores. It is quite likely that Amazon's patent is related to its entry into the same segment. By combining the manufacturing speed of fast fashion brands (which take their cues from catwalks and popular designs) with its computing power, the Seattle-based company can further boost its appeal among millennials. (See also: Amazon to Make Its Own Athletic Wear Line.)