Amazon has begun same-day delivery in the UK, in a manner that – unexpectedly – might even help book chains, or at least one version of them. “Amazon.co.uk today announced an expansion of its Pick-Up Location programme which includes the introduction of its first ever Same-Day collection service,” states the Amazon release. “Customers will be able to purchase products and pick up their order later that day as a result of a collaboration with newspaper and magazine distributor Smiths News, a division of Connect Group Plc. For a limited time, Amazon Prime members will be able to use this new pick-up service free of charge.”
As Amazon goes on to explain, “this new service is available at more than 500 newsagents and convenience stores which will carry ‘Pass my Parcel’ branding to highlight the service to customers. Amazon now offers more than 6,000 pick-up locations including ‘Pass my Parcel’ stores, Collect+ stores and Amazon Lockers. Deliveries made to Amazon Lockers nationally have more than doubled in the last year.”
No one is claiming that this service is exactly friendly to independent bookstores, although Amazon does not specifically reference books as the core product line to be distributed via the new arrangement. Some analysts even regard the UK as a better, more compact market to achieve effective overall same-day deliver services than the U.S. However, Connect Group does include Connect Books “combining a number of recognised brands in print and digital bookselling, including Bertram’s, Dawson Books and Wordery,” in its network, as well as Smiths News, “the UK’s largest news wholesaling business with an approximate 55% market share, distributing newspapers and magazines on behalf of all the major national publishers,” with around 30,000 end-use retail clients across England and Wales. So Amazon is effectively getting a bricks-and-mortar footprint through this partnership, while Connect Group franchises and clients do stand to benefit from the deal. Given the alternative of total head-on competition between clicks and mortar, perhaps it’s not the worst outcome for bookstores and magazine sellers.