Amazon Gets Physical (Storefront)

Experimenting with opening its first brick-and-mortar, Amazon has taken over a 12-story building in the heart of the most famous shopping district in the U.S., on 34th Street in New York City, a block from Herald Square, right near Macy’s headquarters. Plans are to be open and operational in time for this year’s holiday shopping season.

The building at 7 West 34th St. (between Fifth Ave. and Madison Ave.) is intended—initially, at least—to be less of a full traditional store and more of a pickup location. It’s not intended to emphasize merchandise display, for shoppers to browse through and try things out, although there will be a small amount of that. It’s primary purpose will be to facilitate same-day delivery within New York City, designed as much for couriers as consumers.

But it will also be used for consumers to return products and perform exchanges as well as picking up online orders. The store “likely one day will feature Amazon devices like Kindle e-readers, Fire smartphones and Fire TV set-top boxes, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

This store opening marks the latest in a series of snail-paced progressions that Amazon has made from a pure online operation to one that has some lockers for pickup to one that helps same-day deliveries out of warehouses. Amazon has also—briefly—tried selling products through true brick-and-mortar chains including Walmart and Target, but the two chains ended it when Amazon got a bit too competitive for their tastes.

“Amazon has experimented with physical stores before, including pop-up shops and locations run by subsidiaries. Last November, Kindle-brand pop-ups appeared in U.S. malls, selling e-readers and tablets from vending machines. Its Zappos unit has a store near its Kentucky distribution center and once operated a few outlets in its hometown of Las Vegas; and its Quidsi unit runs a cosmetics store in Manhasset, N.Y.,” the Journal reported. “Amazon has studied opening a brick-and-mortar outlet for years, even scouting locations in its hometown of Seattle about two years ago before scrapping the idea because of insufficient foot traffic, said another person familiar with the effort.”