Amazon will open a pop-up bar in Tokyo between Oct. 20 and 29 in the Chuo-ku commercial center, according to the e-commerce giant’s website. Amazon Bar is hosted by Amazon, but operated by a third party, an Amazon Japan spokesperson told Retail Dive.
During its short 10-day run, the bar will offer wine, beer, cocktails, the popular distilled liquor shochu, whiskey and sake. Amazon began selling alcoholic beverages in April 2014 in Japan, the spokesperson said.
The bar won't have a menu, but servers will provide information and recommendations, CNBC reports. "They will also be able to participate in limited events specially designed for the occasion, as well as the characteristic order system that will help them explore new options in drinks," the Amazon Japan spokesperson told Retail Dive.
It's a short run even for a pop-up, but the bar planned for Tokyo later this month represents Amazon's foray into brick and mortar as well as its push to boost sales of alcoholic beverages. "We designed Amazon Bar in a way that makes customer ... experience the distinctively rich lineup in a tangible and spatial form," Amazon Japan spokesperson Eri Nakahata told Retail Dive in an email. "Customers will find extensive displays of the vast products along the walls."
The e-commerce giant has added beer and wine delivery through its Prime Now service to more markets this year, including Cincinnati and Columbus in Ohio, after first testing alcohol delivery in Seattle two years ago. The delivery efforts are a way to capitalize on the growing alcohol delivery space, which Ibisworld estimates will reach $1.4 billion by 2020. Competitors include Drizly, Minibar and Thirstie, which partner with local stores and distributors to offer delivery in cities like Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., as well as the many grocers that offer online ordering.
Amazon is increasingly getting physical, opening more bookstores, testing convenience stores, establishing pop-ups for its devices and of course, buying up Whole Foods earlier this year. In the past decade or so, pop-up retail has been honed to a near-scientific art used by chain stores, brands and e-commerce companies to test new products and ideas. For example, e-commerce retailers can provide shoppers with a rare opportunity to touch and feel their goods. And though the pop-up format does take investment and planning, it doesn't require the long-term buy-in that establishing a traditional store or restaurant does.
“It’s a much more entrepreneurial component of retail,” Jerry Hoffman, president of real estate services firm Hoffman Strategy Group, told Retail Dive last year. “It’s a living, breathing focus group, and it tests your mettle in terms of how you get your brand into the market, tracking where your customers live, what kind of lifestyle profiles that kind of customer might have, and how you do the outreach.”
Mabel McLean, director of Amazon IQ at business intelligence firm L2, expects Amazon, which is voracious when it comes to experimenting and scooping up data in the process, to increasingly use pop-ups to not only get information but also bring its brand onto the physical landscape.
“There’s no better form of advertising than controlling your own retail environment,” she told Retail Dive last year. “The bookstores are something in and of themselves. They may be looking at how they can manage these retail formats and trying to expand their interaction with as many consumers as possible.”
In Japan, the effort appears to be centered on providing expertise along with sales. Last year, Amazon launched a phone-based sommelier service there. At its pop-up bar this month, the menu, which will exist only in servers' heads, will include products not available in the wider market.