Amazon is opening a store in New York City in time for the holiday-shopping season, The Wall Street Journal reported today. It's just not entirely clear what kind of store it will be.
The store, on 34th Street near 5th Avenue, will be a hub with the ability to fulfill same-day deliveries, plus returns and exchanges and pickups for online orders, Greg Bensinger and Keiko Morris reported, citing people familiar with the plans. It isn't clear whether Amazon products such as Fire phones and Kindles will be available at the store the way a traditional retailer would display its wares, according to the article. Amazon used to sell Kindles in Wal-Mart and Target but pulled them two years ago, making this an especially new and significant move for the company.
Amazon's decision to have some sort of physical presence in New York is of note given the obsession the rest of the retail industry has with the e-commerce company and every move it makes. Less than a year ago, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos was on 60 Minutes touting the idea of delivery drones that could place an order to a home in 30 minutes. So the idea of a brick-and-mortar store is a bit of a throwback.
"We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan," Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman said in an e-mailed response to questions about the store from BuzzFeed News.
For once, it looks like Amazon is following traditional retailers, which have been turning their stores into fulfillment centers by enabling what the industry calls BOPIS, or "buy online, pick-up in store." While retailers and mall operators get better at integrating their online and physical presences,with BOPIS and same-day delivery, Amazon has no physical store to speak of.
Most of America's biggest retailers have a New York location, particularly in the Herald Square or Times Square areas, where foot traffic from tourists and city-dwellers is unparalleled.
Amazon dabbled in getting physical last year with pop-up shops that allowed customers to test out its Kindles. It also offers lockers — self-service stations for picking-up and droping-off Amazon merchandise similar to post office boxes — throughout New York in places like 7-Eleven and Rite Aid, though there are certain parts of the cities that don't have any in the immediate vicinity. Further, not everyone is aware of the lockers, given they're within other retailers.
The persistent fear within retail is that Amazon is going to eat up the industry's profits and sales. In coming months, retail executives will probably tout Amazon's new store as a positive for their own brick-and-mortar businesses. It's also a good sign for the shopping center industry, which is newly working with a PR firm to spread the message that physical retail is alive and well.
Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Maheshwari reports on retail and e-commerce.
Contact Sapna Maheshwari at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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