Part of’s pitch to customers is that its prices can’t be beat by its online shopping rivals.   But at least when it comes to fashion, a new analysis shows that the e-commerce giant is often getting beaten on price by brands’ own Web sites and by department stores.

Robert Drbul, a research analyst at Nomura Securities, recently tracked prices of dozens of specific items from brands such as Calvin Klein, Nike, North Face and Fossil. And on pieces ranging from a Kate Spade purse to a pair of Tommy Hilfiger boxer shorts, Amazon was not offering the best deal.

“We concluded that Amazon generally offers the lowest entry-level price in branded product for specific colors or sizes which may be less popular (or no longer offered elsewhere), but hovers around price parity with competitors otherwise,” Drbul wrote in his report.

Here, for example, is a look at what Drbul found when he compared prices during the week of March 23 on several items for VF Corp.’s North Face brand:

Amazon wins the price war on several items, but it also loses handily on others. It’s also striking to note how wide the prices can range on a single item on Amazon, such as the Oso Fleece Hooded Jacket, which could set you back anywhere from $84 to $250. If you check out Amazon’s listings for this item, you can see that, as Drbul says, there are significant differences in price for certain colors and sizes.  It’s likely that the cheapest ones are colors that have proven unpopular or are last year’s version of the jacket.

Fans of accessible-luxury brand Kate Spade may be better off looking beyond Amazon for their next handbag.

Thanks to its “friends and family” promotion, Bloomingdale’s easily undercut Amazon on price on many of these items.  Check out the difference on the Lily Avenue Carrigan bag: It’s nearly $67.


Amazon has been trying for several years to become a bigger player in the fashion category.  Clothing and handbags tend to command high profit margins, making it an attractive category for a company that already has a hearty business in low-margin (or even loss leader) items such as diapers and detergent.

But so far, it’s been something of tough sell. Amazon’s site hasn’t become a destination for upscale clothing shoppers because it lacks the curation and storytelling that these customers get from the likes of Net-a-Porter or Nordstrom.  So, Amazon’s most distinctive value proposition to these customers may be price — and if they’re not consistently delivering on it, it might be a reason why it’s been so hard for them to make inroads with fashionistas.

To be sure, Drbul did find that Amazon was the overall best bet for price on certain brands, such as Ugg Australia, makers of the fuzzy boots you trudged around in all winter.

The key takeway of the study is that there’s no single destination where you can be assured the lowest price.  If you truly want to save every last penny on a purchase, it seems that doing plenty of research is the best bet.

Amazon’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.