Amazon to Open a “What Should We Call It?”: Just The Beginning

I am compelled to weigh in with a different perspective than what’s been written and talked about regarding the speculation that Amazon will open what we in the old paradigm would have called a “retail store” in Seattle.   And, how timely this is, given the fact that my most recent in-depth article on Amazon predicted not just one, but eventually an entire national chain, of Amazon physical “distribution platforms.”  So, all the speculators out there can call this a test store or whatever.  I’m saying it’s just the beginning of the “hard copy” piece of Bezos’s universal vision of a virtual and real global marketplace called Amazon.

Notice I didn’t use the word “store.” First of all, think about what that word means.  A store is where you store something?  For how long do you store it? No silly, a store is where you sell stuff.

I just made my point.  That is how our minds visualize and define the word “store.” Worse, we put the word “retail” in front of it.  Now we’ve really boxed ourselves in.  Our minds have been sitting in a “retail store” paradigm for two centuries.  And, I suggest that is why most of the “retail stores” across the world will ultimately disappear.  And, of course e-commerce is simply accelerating this evolution.  Remember “Marketing Myopia,” the Harvard Business Review article by famed lecturer Theodore Levitt? Had railroad executives in the mid-twentieth century defined themselves as being in the transportation business rather than the railroad business, they would have continued to grow.

What Should We Call It?

We do not call the Internet a retail store (and those who do are headed for dinosaur-land), nor do we call Amazon a retail store.  Nor will Jeff Bezos call his physical building in Seattle a “retail store”(if and when it happens).

Bezos is in the business of delighting consumers by distributing value to them, on and through all distribution vehicles available.  Amazon is a global marketplace.  So, the Seattle facility in “Bezosian” terminology would simply be another distribution platform, a smaller, more experiential consumer showroom, perhaps “Applesque.”

Whether or not Bezos is taking a page out of the Apple playbook is hard to know.  My guess is that Bezos’s more left brain genius understands the huge competitive advantage of a controlled, vertically integrated value chain and of preemptive distribution, which we coined as one of the new rules in our book The New Rules of Retail and. In the book we predicted that Amazon and most other pure e-commerce players would ultimately open brick and mortar distribution points as well.  This new rule is essentially about the necessity for all retailers to gain preemptive access to consumers, ahead of competitors, wherever, whenever and however the consumer wants to shop.  It’s also about being able to provide a real world “experience” which is not possible on the Internet.

Speculation has it that the Seattle facility will carry Amazon’s e-readers, accessories and its exclusive books, and that the launch will be timed to coincide with the release of their publishing venture’s first several books in the fall, which is also just after they are expected to announce the launch of the Kindle Fire 2 tablet.

Regardless, as I said, this is just the beginning.  And as I said in my article about Amazon:  “…how can one not see a simple and logical extension of those (15,000 distribution centers), into small neighborhood showrooms, stocked with samples of local consumer preferences, (since Amazon’s data base is said to be larger than that of the Pentagon with knowledge of what brand of jeans a working mom in Molina, Illinois wears, for example)? And, there might be screens for further shopping and ordering, all in an experiential environment: coffee, music, and so forth? In fact, if you cannot imagine this, a former top executive of Walmart has confided that this is one of Walmart’s biggest fears.”

So call it what you wish.  I call it another consumer touching point for Amazon to distribute “delight” to its consumers wherever, whenever and however they want it.

Robin Lewis About Robin Lewis

Robin Lewis has over forty years of strategic operating and consulting experience in the retail and related consumer products industries. He has held executive positions at DuPont, VF Corporation, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), and Goldman Sachs, among others, and has consulted for dozens of retail, consumer products and other companies. In addition to his role as CEO and Editorial Director of The Robin Report, he is a professor at the Graduate School of Professional Studies at The Fashion Institute of Technology.