Why Amazon’s Bold Move Might Be Great For Local Retail
Earlier today, this Slate article about Amazon’s move towards same-day delivery landed in my inbox courtesy of my good friend Steve. It’s a fascinating bit of information and the author, Farhad Manjoo, makes great points about how this might disrupt (potentially revolutionize) the retail industry. It got a lot of play and links, and for good reason. Only problem is that it doesn’t go far enough.
Manjoo more or less ceases analysis with the conclusion that Amazon’s move is bad for brick-and-mortar retail. That’s no doubt true to a point but, for a certain kind of store, this news might be a godsend.
What this really does is threaten the middle. In other words, it screws Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, and other chains like them. The advantage of those stores has always been breadth, convenience, and price. Amazon has all of those and can beat the chains in each. What Amazon doesn’t have is things like taste, service, care, relationships, etc. It’s a great one-stop shop but it isn’t a great shopping experience.
So maybe this opens the door for the middle to shrink but for both ends to grow. Amazon gobbles up the Best Buys of the world but the customer base doesn’t necessarily follow en masse. Instead, people look online for certain things that are easy to buy but look local when they want something more considered.
If Amazon’s play works then that means when I want a book, I can go there and get it same day (or next day). If I want to go to a bookstore, however, I can go to Atomic Books. If I want a specific home good I can go to Amazon, but if I want to browse I can go to Trohv. And on and on – fill in the name of your favorite local shop as applicable.
What happens, in other words, is buying becomes one thing and shopping becomes another. It opens up a huge door for traditional retailers to deliver an experience instead of just serving as glorified warehouses (which is all that most large chains really are).
The internet is disrupting retail in terms of malls, big box stores, etc., but it might also be opening up new opportunities for well-considered stores.
Why would you ever shop anywhere else?, Manjoo asks. Simple: you do it in any case where you actually want to shop and not simply buy.
As a side note/separate thought: there’s something to be said for the jobs Amazon will be creating by opening all those distribution centers, and for the economic impact of the revenue (taxes and otherwise) they’ll generate. That could potentially offset the hit if their move causes some traditional retailers to close more stores.