Long considered Amazon's first foray into brick-and-mortar retailing, pop-up stores have shown up in locales as diverse as China, France, San Francisco, and Sacramento, but they're still quite rare.
Sightings number in the low dozens since the first one was spotted in 2013, but according to Business Insider that will change this coming holiday season.
Amazon is aggressively expanding its presence in the real-world retail market, with a plan to open dozens of new pop-up stores in US shopping malls over the next year, a source familiar with the matter told Business Insider.
The miniature retail storefronts are a separate effort from the physical bookstore that Amazon opened in Seattle last year and are primarily designed to showcase and sell the company's hardware devices, particularly its Echo home speakers.
As of August, Amazon had 16 pop-up stores in the US — nearly three times as many as the six it had at the end of last year, according to the source. That number is expected to exceed 30 this year and could go up to as many as 100 by next year, as new stores are popping up almost every week in shopping malls across the country, this person said.
Amazon's pop-up stores are less stores than they are kiosks or sample booths. The ones I have heard about typically run 300 to 500 square feet, are staffed by reps who can demo Amazon gadgets but can't provide the full Amazon CS customer experience.
Amazon currently has 22 such pop-up stores listed on its site (the BI article is wrong), including locations in Maryland and one in Tyson's Corner, VA, only fifty or so miles from me.
Based on current job listings, it looks like Amazon is planning to open several dozen additional pop-up stores, including one at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, VA.
The fact that Amazon is hiring employees suggest that the stores could be semi-permanent installations; the first couple stores were staffed by temps, but now Amazon is looking for someone to manage the chain of pop-up stores:
The Amazon Device Sales team is looking for a Sr. Vendor Manager to help us scale our new offline direct retail business. The Amazon Device Pop-Up stores have emerged from the test phase with a goal to expand and grow. We currently have sixteen 300-500sq ft. retail stores in major shopping malls featuring Amazon devices and accessories and an assortment of complementary branded devices. We are seeking an experienced Sr. Vendor Manager who will own the branded device, accessory and Amazon Basics categories. The role will require working closely with Amazon device product teams, online retail vendor managers and 3rd party suppliers to build a business that enhances the customer experience with our own products and ecosystem.
That's quite the diverse brick-and-mortar empire for an online retailer, and it gives us a better idea of how that mall exec would be under the impression that Amaozn was going to open 400 retail locations.
And it's a bold move by Amazon.
Many retailers have trouble managing multiple types of retail operations; B&N for example shuttered all of its smaller mall-based B Dalton stores in favor of its big box B&N stores. And Walmart couldn't make their drug store chain work out (they're also closing or remodeling their smaller mega-stores).
But Amazon has two established and unique retail operations (unstores, pop-up stores) and is investing in two more unique types of stores.
Yes, Amazon Books has one location in operation and three planned locations, but four locations is still a small experiment rather than a validated idea. And the same goes for the drive-in grocery stores.
Do you think the new store types will succeed? Would you use them?
image by @joelsef, via Twitter