Amazon's ongoing expansion into brick-and-mortar retail has inspired some to compare the internet retailer to the aged and failing Sears, but the surface similarities do not extend to core values or culture.
Where Sears opened stores that sold almost everything it carried in its warehouses, Amazon has opened stores that serve specific niche markets.
For example, Amazon just opened its thirteenth bookstore in Walnut Creek, Calif.
For years, Amazon’s e-commerce business has threatened brick-and-mortar bookstores in the Bay Area and beyond. Now, it’s joining their ranks with bookstores of its own, and its first East Bay outpost has opened in Walnut Creek’s Broadway Plaza shopping corridor.
Like other bookstores, rows of best-seller titles and recommendation cards line the shelves, but unlike those traditional stores, a wealth of data gleaned from the company’s e-commerce business is fueling what goes on the shelves at Amazon Books stores.
“We really built Amazon Books to be a place for people to come discover books they will like,” said Cameron Janes, vice president of Amazon Books, at Thursday’s opening of the store.
Books are presented face-out on the shelves, so that customers can browse the covers — similar to how customers would view the books on the Amazon.com site. Under each book is a review card with customers’ ratings from Amazon.com and a review from a customer. All 3,800 titles in the store, Janes said, are rated four stars or higher by customers on Amazon or are among the top sellers.
“When you only have that many (books), you have to make sure every book is one that (customers) will want,” Janes said.
Thirty-eight hundred titles is not even tithe of the books Amazon stocks in its warehouses, and it is also a far smaller number than the typical indie would stock.
So Amazon isn't just jumping into B&M retail; they're doing something no one understands yet.
While all the pieces are correct in identifying Sears as a tech company (its core tech was railroads where Amazon's is the internet) what they missed was the fundamental reason why Sears started to decline.
This is something that Jeff Bezos figured out, but apparently mot people missed.
Sears died because it stopped being a young company. As it grew, it developed procedures to run its operations, and as years went by those procedures ossified. By the time Walmart cam around, Sears was in the classic state of the old, established company that could not throw over its existing SOP to adapt to the changing times, a problem that only grew worse when the internet came along.
This has less to do with any single specific action than with company culture, and it is a problem that Jeff Bezos foresaw.
Do you know how Bezos is famous for saying "It's always Day One at Amazon"? This is why:
So long as Amazon remembers that it needs to keep reinventing itself, it will not suffer the same fate as Sears.