Amazon is exploring the possibility of new retail outlets in categories including furniture, home appliances and electronics, according to a New York Times report, which cites unnamed people familiar with the company’s discussions, while cautioning that the ideas may not come to fruition.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon is delaying the public launch of the first high-tech Amazon Go convenience store, which has been in private testing in downtown Seattle. The WSJ reports that the tracking technology inside the store “functions flawlessly only if there are a small number of customers present, or when their movements are slow,” and hasn’t been working reliably when the store is busy.
It’s the latest report to cite challenges with the technology, which is key to the company’s vision of a checkout-free experience.
All of this comes as the company prepares to open its first AmazonFresh Pickup locations in Seattle’s Ballard and SoDo neighborhoods. Signs have been installed at both locations, but they remained covered in Ballard as of early Monday morning, and Amazon hasn’t said when they will open.
Amazon has opened five Amazon Books stores, in cities including Seattle, Chicago, San Diego, Portland and outside of Boston. Five more have been publicly announced, in Walnut Creek, Calif.; Lynnfield Mass.; Parumus N.J.; New York City and Bellevue, Wash.
The initiatives reflect the online giant’s determination to make a move into brick-and-mortar retail, but in its own way. Part of the motivation is an understanding that customers want to see and touch some items before buying. In the case of the furniture and appliance concepts, the stores “would serve as showcases where people could view the items in person, with orders being delivered to their homes,” the New York Times reports.
An Amazon spokesman tells the NYT: “We are always thinking about new ways to serve customers, but thinking is different than planning.”
Amazon’s growth in physical retail raises natural concerns among many of the same traditional retailers whose businesses have been undercut by the company’s online prowess. In a special report on the company, the Economist cites the possibility of new regulatory scrutiny for the company in the future. “If Amazon does become a utility for commerce, the calls will grow for it to be regulated as one,” the magazine concludes. “Shareholders are right to believe in Amazon’s potential. But success will bring it into conflict with an even stronger beast: government.”