Amazon Seeks To Rebuild Reputation With Brick and Mortar
Amazon opened its first physical bookstore today at a permanent location in the University Village mall in Seattle. The company, which has offered pop-up locations for major sales in the past, is following the trend of many former “online only” retailers to open a physical store that emphasizes customer interaction. Others such as Casper, the formerly online-only mattress retailer that sought to change the typical mattress buying experience, have had success with brick and mortar storefronts.
The brick and mortar location, coined Amazon Books, will give customers a greater level of interaction than the online retailer has previously offered. Sometimes seen as unreliable, Amazon’s marketplace has offered consumers lower priced options than superstores like Walmart and Target, as well as helpful reviews that can persuade consumers to buy without any additional employee effort.
Amazon Books’ primary focus will be book sales, stocking about 5,000 titles, and will have some devices on display for customer testing and purchase. Uniquely, the store will stack all books with their covers facing outwards, and will display a placard giving a customer review and the books’ Amazon.com rating. Prices will be the same as in the online store.
How could Amazon benefit from a customer oriented storefront? Recent employee backlash appearing in a New York Times article prompted current and former employees to come forward with their own bad experiences working for the online marketplace. The most condemning account came from a former employee who decried Amazon’s sick and parental leave policies.
The company has also revealed this week that it will offer better benefits to its 222,000 employees, most notably adding 20 weeks of maternity leave for new mothers and up to six weeks for new fathers.
The store’s opening is an unwelcome change for local small booksellers, who in 2011 saw some relief after a Barnes & Noble location closed. J. B. Dickey, owner of Seattle Mystery Bookshop, had reservations about the store’s alignment with Amazon’s business model, “A brick-and-mortar store is antithetical to what they’re about. The whole point of Amazon is getting what you want through your keyboard. What’s the point of opening a shop that demands people drive to it?”
Despite the drawbacks of a physical store, Amazon Books vice president, Jennifer Cast, says that they are focused on making the store successful, and hope to open more in the future.