More Brick-and-Mortar for Amazon | Vol. 3 / No. 28.3

Photo: Zhao!, CC BY 2.0

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So remember back when Amazon was denying or sidestepping all the rumours that they were going to build a bunch more birck-and-mortar stores? Well, Gizmodo is now reporting that the company did protest too much, as the saying goes.

It’s not going to be three or four hundred stores or anything, but it’s going to be an expansion, and whether it continues will probably have to do with whether or not the cost of running them is less than the additional online sales they get from running their own showrooms.

As I’ve written about here before, Amazon has long profited from brick-and-mortar stores acting as a kind of showroom for their products — people would go, browse, check their phones to see how cheap the books were on Amazon, and then order them online. Which, of course, caused the stores to close. Opening and running stores themselves allows them to garner modest income from walk-ins, as well as (probably) increased sales online.

My guess is that the store they opened back in November gave them some promising preliminary data on sales that they’d like to explore further. So they’ll open a few more in major urban centers across America to test the waters further. If it pans out, they’ll find themselves opening more and more of them.

No matter how you look at it — as brick-and-mortar loss-leaders on online sales, or as online-sales-subsidized browseable bookstores — it’s a major step up on their competitors, even if they now have to foot the showroom bill themselves.

The future is a strange, hybrid place.

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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.

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