Amazon retail stores could appeal to younger generation
June 24, 2012 | 6:15 pm
Remember those rumors from February that Amazon was going to open its own retail store chain, possibly starting with a boutique store in Seattle? On Forbes (and reprinted in Digital Book Today), Carol Tice takes a look at the idea and finds it rather exciting. She suggests it could be “likely the birth of a major new retail bookstore chain, a Waldenbooks for the 21st Century.”
An Amazon store, says Tice, could be an antidote to the depressing sameness of physical merchandise in retail outlets these days—and a way to appeal to the younger generation who is growing up reading from screens in the same way that physical bookstores appealed to the people who grew up reading from books.
Someone at Amazon has awoken to the realization that the company is sitting on a gold mine of unique books and ebooks. Put that together with its own reader device, and you’ve got the setting for a cross between Barnes & Noble and the Apple store — in other words, a bookstore my 10-year-old son is going to want to visit. And buy things at, and read them, on his Kindle.
If Amazon does open a chain of retail stores, I expect it will indeed be very different from any print retail stores in the past—if only because those stores started physical first and then expanded to the ‘net. The Apple store might be a good comparison, since it represented Apple’s move from selling exclusively on-line to selling in person, and it applies some of those lessons in the unique way it sells things.
But the Apple store sells mostly high-end hardware. How would it apply to a store selling low-end books and e-books? It might be very interesting to find out. Jeff Bezos is an idea man among idea men; Amazon never does quite what you expect, even when you’re expecting them to do something.
And as a side benefit, an Amazon store will also provide a safe place for people to pick up Amazon orders if they’d otherwise be at work when they arrived. Best Buy and Wal-Mart, among others, already offer this kind of service. Amazon has been introducing banks of lockers various places to serve as a kind of stand-in (and according to Nate from The Digital Reader, they’ve just started showing up in the Washington D.C. suburbs), but how much better an actual store with a physical human presence who can smile at you as they hand you the package and encourage you to come back?
And if Amazon is going to have to collect sales tax anyway, it might as well get some physical benefit out of it, and compete with all the bookstores who insist they will not carry the physical books released by Amazon’s publishing arm.
If Amazon does open a chain of physical stores, I expect the other bookstores to howl, and possibly the publishers too. It will be entertaining to watch that, at least. But will Amazon have to raise its prices to support the overhead costs? I guess we’ll just have to see.
And I should, of course, note that this could be much ado about nothing: the idea of Amazon opening retail stores is, thus far, simply rumor and speculation, and plenty of rumors don’t ever come true.