Amazon opened its first retail store this week and I went by to check out how Amazon made the transition from internet to retail sales. Could this be the future of retail stores? Read on to see my thoughts and photos of the store.
The store is called Amazon Books and it’s located in Seattle’s University Village shopping center next to the University of Washington campus. From the outside it looks like any other modern retail store:
Inside too it looks, feels, and even smells like a book store. If you squint you might even think you’re in a Barnes & Noble or other large book store:
There’s a big emphasis on Amazon’s products like their tablets, e-readers, and other hardware. It’s almost like Amazon’s version of an Apple store that showcases the products and hardware they sell:
However it’s not as slick or pretentious as an Apple store. You won’t find a huge glass entrance or employees bouncing around in bright uniforms. In fact the employees wore normal clothes and were identifiable only by their Amazon lanyards and barcode scanners on their belts. They roamed around helping customers and appeared to be quite friendly.
You could touch and play with Amazon’s hardware like the Fire TV streaming box, Kindle e-readers, and Fire tablets:
The Amazon Echo home assistant was on display too. This one was connected to a couple lights that you could turn on and off with a voice command like “Alexa, turn on the lights.”
Even Amazon’s less glamorous hardware like basic cables and headphones were on display. Interesting to see no costly packaging or displays:
Books were the main focus of the store and shelves filled with them lined all the walls and aisles. However you’ll notice a few interesting things about how Amazon’s store displays books. Instead of packing the shelves with hundreds of different titles each one only had a few dozen books placed prominently with covers facing outward:
Looking closer you could find excerpts of reviews and the current star rating. Curiously though there was no price tag anywhere in sight:
The big twist with Amazon’s store is that nothing has a price tag, instead you need to use Amazon’s phone app or a kiosk to scan a book and find its current price:
Beyond the displays and pricing the store felt like a normal book shop and had books in all the categories that you would expect. The layout was a bit cozy and at times cramped:
One thing I liked were end caps and displays with little curated collections of books. It felt like there was an emphasis on discovering books that were new to you, and not seeking out a specific title like in a library or big book store.
The graphic novel department was great too, especially with all the covers displaying artwork. Also funny to see the rows of books with their spine out as decoration on high shelves far out of reach.
The back of the store had a large children’s book section organized by age:
Like other book stores there were periodicals and places to park yourself with a book, laptop, etc. However you won’t find a cafe, music, or movie section–only books and Amazon products:
Convenient advertising for Amazon’s music streaming service–there was a modern jazz soundtrack playing while I was visiting:
Nice to see that Amazon is open to feedback and suggestions too:
Overall the store looked great and my visit was a positive experience. It really feels like Amazon is shooting for more of a showroom experience than a traditional bookstore. There’s a big emphasis on quality over quantity. Instead of coming in to find a specific title you’re better off browsing and trying out products. Most brick and mortar retailers shun this kind of ‘showrooming’ behavior but Amazon appears to embrace it with their retail store. I think it’s an interesting idea and wouldn’t be surprised to see more of these stores pop up in major cities in the future.
As I was leaving it was fitting to see a Tesla Model S parked in front of the store:
Is it foreshadowing a future where your electric car drives you to the Amazon store to browse and touch things before ordering them on the Internet? Maybe!
All photos in this post taken by Tony DiCola and released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.