Amazon.com, the largest online retailer in the world, is looking to open its first brick-and-mortar store -- in New York City -- just in time for the holiday shopping season.
The company, which is reportedly opening the store on Manhattan's busy 34th Street, is looking to experiment with a retail store that would focus on same-day delivery in the city, as well as give customers a place for product returns, exchanges and even online order pickups, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) .
The store also would give shoppers a place to check out - and hold in their hands -- Amazon's Kindle e-readers and Fire smartphone.
Kelly Cheeseman, a spokeswoman for Amazon, told Computerworld, "We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan."
"This is kind of interesting because it's so counter-intuitive," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "People buy in different ways and often, with holiday buying, folks shift sharply to stores as their procrastination catches up with them at the end of the season. Amazon loses business when this happens and by setting up stores in very high-traffic areas, they can go after at least some of this business."
The brick-and-mortar store also will be an in-your-face reminder for people to think about shopping at Amazon as they move through Manhattan. They might not be able to stop in the store but it might nudge them to look online - especially at Amazon.com -- for that sweater, book or stand mixer they want to buy.
"I think it's more about bringing publicity to Amazon during the holiday season rather than a new move to bricks and mortar," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "First, it's in New York City -- in the heart of midtown Manhattan -- and it will be open during the Christmas shopping season. I would also imagine that this will garner Amazon a lot of attention during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events."
He added that with Amazon's size and online success, there's very little risk here.
"It's an experiment," noted Olds. "If it works, maybe they'll use it as a springboard to compete with retailers that offer a 'buy online, pick up in store' model. If it's not so popular, or if the costs are higher than expected, Amazon can retreat back to their online only business model."
Enderle said it's all about every major retailer finding the right balance.
"You have to make sure the [brick-and-mortar] stores enhance online buyers and never displace them," he added.