Why Amazon Is Opening More Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

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The company often credited with fundamentally disrupting the book-selling business is taking a step back in time. Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) is planning to open its 10th brick-and-mortar bookstore later this year in Bellevue, Washington.

While it’s highly unlikely that Amazon is going to open hundreds of such stores, it is a reasonable question to ask why the company is opening any at all.

One explanation that appears to be especially sensible is that the stores are a showroom for Amazon’s growing number of hardware devices. Not sure if you want to purchase an Amazon Echo? Here’s a place where you can go and kick the tires. Been wondering if a Kindle or a Fire tablet is the product for you? Go on in and check them out.

It’s kind of a 180-degree turn from the shopping experience called “showrooming,” where a customer visits a retail store to test a product and then orders either from a mobile device or later from a home PC. Maybe Amazon isn’t satisfied with having disrupted just the book-selling business and has now cast its eye on retailers in general.

The company’s chief financial officer had this to say on last month’s conference call:

We think the bookstores, for instance, are a really great way for customers to engage with our devices and see them, touch them, play with them and become fans. So we see a lot of value in that as well.

A report at Recode also noted that the stores function as an indirect showcase for Amazon Prime, the $99-a-year membership program that includes free two-day shipping and a plethora of additional benefits like streaming video.

Amazon may even expand the walk-out technology the company has introduced in its Amazon Go convenience stores. That seems like a slam dunk option to us.

Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in late 2015.