University Village. Photo via U Village

Could this be the year that Amazon.com opens brick-and-mortar retail stores? Well, if the Seattle online retailer were to buck tradition and give that a shot, something that The New York Times recently speculated about, here’s the perfect location for them: the former Barnes & Noble at the University Village shopping mall.

Barnes & Noble shut down the Seattle store in December, leaving a big hole smack dab in the middle of the popular outdoor shopping center.

Now, we’ve heard nothing about whether Amazon actually plans to open any physical stores this year or in the future, let alone one at U Village. (The company is typically close-lipped about any sort of plans like this). UPDATE: Good-e-Reader reported this past weekend, citing sources close to the situation, that Amazon was kicking around a smaller-scale, boutique-style retail store in Seattle where it could sell Kindles as well as book titles from its own publishing line.

Nonetheless, if Amazon were investigating a brick-and-mortar retail strategy of any size, U Village would make a heck of a lot of sense.

Consider this:

–Amazon already collects sales tax on purchases made in Washington state, so a physical retail presence in Seattle would be easier for Jeff Bezos and crew to stomach.

Amazon could use retail stores to tout its new line of tablet computers

–Amazon has shown a tendency to test new concepts in its hometown, from the Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service to the recently-launched Amazon Locker service.

–Taking over (a portion) of the retail space of a rival in Barnes & Noble could have a certain allure, especially as Amazon looks to tout its own line of tablets and e-readers. (See comment below).

–David Streitfeld at The New York Times notes that the diversity of products sold via Amazon.com would mean that any store would have to be big, and the former Barnes & Noble space does not disappoint coming in at 46,000 square feet, with about half of that currently available.

–Apple, Microsoft and Sony all have retail stores in the shopping center, and Amazon could make a big statement by planting its flag near them.

–As Amazon.com adds more of its own products — including publishing books — the company could use a retail presence as a flagship store to market items in new ways. 

I am not a betting man, but I’d wager a guess that a least a few folks in the halls of Amazon.com are kicking around these ideas. University Village general manager Susie Plummer told the Seattle P-I in December that they would love to have a book store at the shopping center.

Might Amazon be the one?

We will just have to wait and see what happens on that front.

I know of at least one person who is patiently waiting. Ten years ago, I wrote a column for the Seattle P-I in which I asked venture capitalists to offer bold predictions for the coming year. Tom Simpson of Northwest Venture Associates had this to say: “Amazon.com will open 250 retail stores in 2002.”

As we all know, that didn’t happen. But good things come to those who wait, right?

UPDATE: A spokeswoman at University Village tells us that they are not in active discussions with Amazon.com about retail space, but she said they are still very much interested in having book store at the shopping center.  Room & Board plans to open in the fall, taking over the second floor space. The street-level shops will be announced in the coming months, the spokeswoman said.

Follow-upAnother big brick-and-mortar bookseller says it won’t carry titles from Amazon.com

Comments

  • Dwbowers

    That space has already been leased to a furniture store.

    • johnhcook

      Thanks DWbowers. According to the Seattle Times, the furniture retailer Room & Board is taking about half of the space in the former Barnes & Noble store. 

      http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2017221285_uvillage13.html 

      I’ve not yet seen what the shopping center plans to do with the rest of the space, but a story in the blog Good-e-Reader indicated that Amazon was planning a new boutique-style retail store in Seattle where it could sell titles from its own publishing line as well as its Kindle e-readers.

      http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/amazon-in-the-process-of-launching-a-retail-store/ 

      Perhaps a smaller-scale store in U Village will be the first stepping stone into the physical retail environment, mirroring more of the path of Apple and Microsoft with their stores. 

      U Village general manager Susie Plummer told the Times that she had been talking to independent book stores for at least part of the space, and that some of those were interested in space elsewhere at the shopping center. Plummer also said that most of the emails she received about closing Barnes & Noble came from parents who wanted a store for children’s books.

      Interestingly, Amazon.com just got into the children’s book publishing business with the purchase of rights to about 450 titles from Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books.  

      http://www.geekwire.com/2011/amazoncom-buys-rights-450-childrens-book-titles 

      We’re going to keep digging into this one, so stay tuned. 

  • Guest

    There’s loads of empty retail space in South Lake Union, where Amazon has her headquarters. Much like Microsoft Store #1 and the prototype Apple Store, wouldn’t it be wise to open such a store where executives can monitor it up close?

    • johnhcook

      I thought about South Lake Union too for Amazon’s retail presence, and I think it is a real possibility. Amazon executives could really test the concept by having it so close to them. But I don’t think South Lake Union offers the sort of high volume foot traffic that a mall (or downtown retail core) does. 

      U Village might be more appealing if Amazon is thinking about rolling out retail shops nationwide since it offers a more traditional-look of retail, and it could really test the concept. It would also give them data on how they compare to nearby stores from Sony, Microsoft and Apple. South Lake Union is crawling with so many Amazon workers that you’d have to wonder if it actually would prove as a useful test. That said, they could open more than one store in Seattle, just as they’ve established more than one location in the area for the Amazon Lockers. http://www.geekwire.com/2011/exclusive-photos-amazons-mysterious-lockers-surface-college-campus As I said in the comment above, this is going to be very interesting to watch.

      • http://twitter.com/awoods Andrew Woods

        Borders Books recently shut down, leaving a large space empty(24,753 Sq Ft ) in downtown Seattle on 4th between pine and pike. I’ve been hoping that an Apple store would move in there(because that would be awesome), but an Amazon retail store would also be great. This addresses the foot traffic problem, but ti’s still close to SLU

  • http://twitter.com/kirinkalia Kirin Kalia

    Jason Calacanis broke this story about two months ago — see http://www.launch.is/blog/rumor-amazon-retail-stores-coming-predatory-pricing-channel.html

    • Guest

       s/broke this story/invented this rumor/

  • http://twitter.com/marlowharris Marlow Harris

    While a SLU store would be convenient for Amazon employees and a U-Village store could create a bastion of virtual eCommerce made real, a store in the abandoned Elliot Bay Bookstore in Pioneer Square would be a beautiful gift to the city.  Pioneer Square remains one of the most visually interesting and architecturally original neighborhoods in Seattle, and according to one of Tech Flash’s recent articles, has a huge tech population: “Pioneer Square employs an estimated 1,800 employees at more than 135 technology and creative companies, with more than $1Billion in activity each year”.  (http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2011/10/tech-companies-lead-renaissance.html)
     
    A store in Pioneer Square would still be close enough to monitor, and would be a magnet for the tech workers in the area.  But maybe more importantly, the move would be recognized as a city-changing gift to the citizens of Seattle.  The retail street-level situation in Pioneer Square is dismal and with abandoned buildings and failed stores and galleries in the area, adds to the feeling of desolation there.  Seattle cannot afford to lose this architectural jewel, and it is within the power of someone living here among us to do something positive, while moving his own company into the future.

    • johnhcook

      I’d love to see this too, but I’d be surprised to see Amazon set up shop in Pioneer Square on the basis of civic pride. They’d probably want a location where they can actively test the concept for future rollouts, and Pioneer Square just doesn’t have the foot traffic. 

      Monica Guzman reported on this challenge for GeekWire in early October. As Monica noted, the neighborhood “has tech, but needs tribe.”

      She writes:

      With Zynga and now HTC joining companies like Isilon Systems, BlueNile, Yapta and Payscale there, Pioneer Square is proving it’s a place where geeks want to work. But until Seattle’s first neighborhood stays up past rush hour, it won’t rival Fremont, downtown and the booming South Lake Union as a place where geeks want to play.

      Full story here

      http://www.geekwire.com/2011/pioneer-square-tech-needs-tribe

      Thanks for the comment.

  • http://twitter.com/lunarmobiscuit Michael ‘Luni’ Libes

    If Amazon really went through with this idea, they might not necessarily aim for a store with 100,000 items, or 10,000.  They know what is popular, and thus they could do a “top 1,000″ of physical items, supplemented with access to the other million items available online, all with free shipping for purchases delivered to the store.

  • Veronica

    I would put it in a place with tourist attraction like Downtown or Pioneer Square. If you want to test national waters, they could track if our wonderful tourists would stop by and buy things at Amazon Store

  • Veronica

    I would put it in a place with tourist attraction like Downtown or Pioneer Square. If you want to test national waters, they could track if our wonderful tourists would stop by and buy things at Amazon Store

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