After a report (since walked back) that Amazon plans to open as many as 400 physical bookstores rippled through the retail industry last month, it’s now certain the e-retail giant will be opening at least a second physical store.
The San Diego Union Tribune and other news outlets are reporting that signage for an Amazon bookstore is up on a storefront at the Westfield University Towne Center Mall in San Diego.
The Union Tribune last month reported that Amazon was looking for employees in the San Diego area to staff a store, which the company confirmed. Amazon opened its first physical retail bookstore in hometown Seattle.
Why would a company that disrupted the entire retail industry with its pure-play online prowess, lower prices and whiz-bang fulfillment enter the brick-and-mortar space that it apparently tried to vanquish two decades earlier? And why books?
“You ask why now, but in some ways, it’s kind of like, 'Why not?'” Amazon VP of books Jennifer Cast told GeekWire last November.
While brick-and-mortar is a notoriously hard nut to crack, profits may not be what Amazon is searching for in this new endeavor. More likely, it’s another way to collect customer data, to provide omni-channel shopping and fulfillment options, and to provide hands-on experience with its devices. When the company opened its first store last last year, Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru told Business Insider that the experiment will likely be very helpful to the e-retail giant.
"If they sell books, awesome,” Mulpuru said then. “Even if they don't sell books, there's a lot to learn about how people discover products, how they shop for products. Does a physical store increase your likelihood to spend with Amazon in general? Does it make you more loyal to Amazon?”
Retail futurist Doug Stephens told Retail Dive that nobody should be too surprised about Amazon’s move.
“Everyone was shocked and amazed at Amazon’s bookstore, but the bookstore is a trojan horse, to get devices into consumers’ hands,” Stephens said. “Everything Amazon does is aimed at that—getting their consumer into their ecosystem.”