E-commerce bookstore and general goods giant Amazon opened its first physical offshoot in 2015 to a mix of customer excitement and competitor dismay: the company has, in its three decades of operation, gained notoriety for redirecting customers from neighbourhood bookstores to their e-commerce site, only to reintroduce the physical option after wiping out many smaller institutions.
Last week, the company made good on its promise to open seven stores just this year by opening the doors to its first store in New York, with a 4,000 square foot presence in Columbus Circle. Many have pointed out that the location – Manhattan’s West Side – was previously home to such institutions, pre-e-commerce, of course. Six of the same stores around the country will soon follow, including another Manhattan-based branch.
Although the store is very much in the vein of neighbourhood bookstores (even the brick facades remain), it still retains some of Amazon’s online legacy. No payment can be made with cash, for example, and sales are encouraged through the app without ever having to visit the cash register. No prices are displayed either, with customers expected to scan items to uncover the cost, mimicking the site’s shifting price system. Every book displayed on a shelf is positioned with the cover facing outwards (as it is on their site), the 3,000 books included in the store have an Amazon rating of 4 stars and above, and books are arranged to reflect data the company has gathered from its online readership – as seen in sections like, ‘Page Turners: Books Kindle Readers Finish in Three Days or Less’.
Widely considered a backwards step that’s still in the right direction, Amazon’s new domination of brick-and-mortar bookstores proves once again the vitality of the brand – and their willingness to do something different, which ironically, is exactly what others had previously done. Who said going backwards was a bad thing?