In a somewhat ironic turn, the once online-only Amazon is bringing its wares to physical retail locations, per new rumors. The Wall Street Journal reports that many anonymous sources close to the company have knowledge of plans to open Amazon-branded department stores in California and Ohio.
The large stores will supposedly stock many of the same items you could normally purchase through Amazon’s site, with a focus on clothing, electronics, and household items. The endeavor is something of an ironic turn, with an online brand making its presence known in a physical space. Many brick-and-mortar retailers have gone the other direction, using their physical stores as a springboard to open lucrative online sales platforms.
Lockdowns and concerns over the global medical situation shuttered numerous department stores throughout 2020 and 2021. Amazon was already devouring sales from stores like Macy’s and JCPenny, so it’s only fitting that the company would move into the space they disrupted. Many department stores have filed for bankruptcy this year, and Amazon has clearly spotted an opportunity to drain the remaining sales interest from these locations.
Amazon, meanwhile, has been making plenty of money since the start of 2020. The shift to mostly online shopping helped to fill the company’s coffers, even funding and an ill-advised trip to space for trillionaire owner Jeff Bezos.
The brief space trip saw Bezos roundly criticized on social media. Many took offense to the world’s richest man treating himself to a trip into outer space while many of his company’s employees need to rely on government assistance to buy groceries.
Notably, these department stores aren’t technically the first brick-and-mortar Amazon stores. The company opened a few physical bookstores in 2015 and owns the grocery store chain Whole Foods. There are also a few scattered pop-up locations and “Amazon Go” kiosks that have no cashiers, but these are smaller experiments.
The Amazon department stores look like full-scale stores that bring Amazon’s wide-ranging website stock to the real world, allowing customers to get hands-on with items like furniture and clothing. Trying items on before buying them is a major benefit to physical retail locations and something that online shopping has always struggled with.
It’s difficult to pull the trigger on buying clothes from an online retailer when you don’t know how, exactly, it’s going to look on you. The same can apply to furniture. Why would you buy a couch or a bed online if you’re not sure whether it’s even comfortable? The physical locations are likely to open sometime next year, though the company has not yet made any official comment on this story.