“THE WORLD wants you to be typical …Don’t let it happen,” Jeff Bezos warned in April in his last annual shareholder letter as CEO of Amazon. Hence bewilderment that his e-empire is to adopt a retail format that is very typical indeed: the department store. Having helped drive many chains out of business, it is now eyeing the format to boost its own retail fortunes.
As a company, Amazon is entering a more mature phase. Now with a new chief executive, Andy Jassy, it is being forced to recognise that pure e-commerce has limits. It is also facing fresh competition from conventional retailers like Walmart and Target that are belatedly showing that they, too, can do the internet well.
Amazon’s high-street presence is small. Since 2015 it has opened 24 bookshops in America. Its 30 “4-star” shops, which stock items customers rate highly, function like a walk-in website. Whole Foods, an upmarket grocer it bought in 2017, contributes the bulk of its physical-store revenues, which accounted for just 4% of Amazon’s total sales in the most recent quarter. Its new Amazon Fresh grocery chain and Amazon Go cashierless stores barely chip in.
So the new 30,000-square-foot (2,800-square-metre) retail spaces it is reportedly envisaging mark a departure. Amazon has neither confirmed nor denied its plans. But leaked details on the…