retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Seattle Times reports on a minor local intrigue about a vacant retail space in the University Place shopping center - nobody seems to know who the tenant is, the landlord isn't talking, and all anyone does know for sure is that there are bookshelves being built inside.

Which makes everybody think that it is Amazon, planning to open a bricks-and-mortar store in a location that, the Times writes, "with its proximity to the UW and the literary population of Seattle ... may be one of the best places in the country for a bookshop."

The Times seems to think that it is at least possible: "Opening a physical retail store has become the new vogue thing for e-commerce companies. Warby Parker, an online eyewear company, set up shop in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Smaller outdoor online retailers MiiR and Evo are expanding their physical retail presences in the city."

Plus, "Amazon does seem to be up to something within its bookseller roots. Robert Sindelar, managing partner at the popular Seattle shop Third Place Books, said a few of his booksellers were contacted by Amazon recruiters on LinkedIn. The booksellers didn’t follow up with the recruiter, but from what they could tell, the project seemed related to a retail establishment.

"Amazon has opened a few staffed pickup locations on or near college campuses in recent months, including an upcoming location in Cincinnati uncovered Thursday. U Village’s proximity to the University of Washington has added to rumors of Amazon’s possible entrance."
KC's View:
Every once in a while, when a bricks-and-mortar retailer seems to be in trouble, there seems to be speculation from the investor class that Amazon ought to buy the chain and make a big physical retailing statement. I've always disagreed with this ... I think that buying a big chain would create enormous infrastructure challenges and all sorts of legacy issues from which Amazon has assiduously steered clear ... and should, in my humble opinion, continue to avoid.

But ... I don't think that it necessarily is a bad idea to open a store here and there, especially in proximity to college campuses. These stores could serve as delivery depots for everything that Amazon sells ... plus could be a place where people could physically interact with some of the proprietary hardware products that Amazon is bringing to market.