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Amazon to Open Bookstore in San Francisco Suburb, Unstore in Cleveland

There’s no mention on Amazon’s website but it seems the retailer is planning to open its next Amazon Books location in Walnut Creek, Calif.:

Following the departure of Barnes & Noble last year and the demise of several chain and independent bookstores in the city over the decades, online giant Amazon is planning a brick-and-mortar book store in Broadway Plaza.

Amazon spokeswoman Sarah Gelman confirmed the Seattle-based online retailer is opening an Amazon Books and hiring workers at the high-end shopping center.

Whatever the final incarnation, Amazon’s foray into tony Walnut Creek doesn’t shock Laurelle Swan, who operates the city’s last remaining independently-owned book store, Swan’s Fine Books.

“I’m not surprised Amazon came in because they saw a need here for new books,” she said.

Despite its booming retail, dining and arts scene and its state-of-the-art public library, the city lacks a book store where shoppers can browse the shelves for the latest bestseller or newest cook book. The nearest general interest bookstores are in Concord, Danville, Lafayette, Orinda and San Ramon.

This will be the 9th Amazon Books location.

Given the population density and the fact that one suburb ends where another begins, it’s not accurate to say that the are lacks a bookstore. Oakland, which is about 14 miles west of Walnut Creek, has at least a half dozen bookstores. Although the nearest Barnes & Noble is 17 miles away in Oakland, there are several bookstores in the cities in between Oakland and Walnut Creek as well as bookstores in the suburbs surrounding Walnut Creek.

Depending on how far readers are willing to drive, Amazon could compete with even the Oakland B&N.

Me, I don’t think it would be worth the drive – not when I can stay home and buy books online.

Edit: In related news, Amazon is also going to open a pickup location near Cleveland State University:

[email protected], the likely name for a package pickup store for online retailer Amazon, is in the works for downtown near Cleveland State University.

The city’s building department website shows a permit was issued for a 2,500-square-foot Amazon store at 2020 Euclid Ave. The retail space is on the first floor of the University Lofts apartments, which converted offices to apartments years ago. The permit says building out the store will cost about $390,000 to renovate.

The city record, available to the public through online contracting and building information site notes construction work has been underway since Jan. 17.



image by bchow

Amazon to Open New Unstore at The University of Texas at Austin

AmazonatPurdue_1[1]Amazon announced on Wednesday that it will shortly be opening its eighth retail location on or near a US college campus. The new unstore will be located on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, in Gregory Gymnasium, and it is scheduled to open in summer 2016.

The 2,500 square foot space will give students and staff  "a convenient location to pick up and return Amazon orders, including virtually everything one needs, from everyday essentials to technology".

It appears be launched as a compliment to, rather than a replacement for,  UT Austin’s bookstore, the University Co-op, The co-op is larger than your average college bookstore, and operates in seven locations in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston.

Since 2015, Amazon has opened staffed pickup locations, or unstores, at five US colleges and plans to open an additional two locations in the near future. Three of the unstores are located on the campuses of Purdue University, UC Berkeley, and UM Amherts, and two are located just off the campuses of UC Santa Barbara and the University of Cincinnati.

In addition to location at the University of Texas at Austin, Amazon has also announced contracts to open two more locations in 2016, at the University of Pennsylvania and UC Davis. (And of course there’s Amazon Books in Seattle, and the upcoming store in San Diego.)

That makes for eight planned or operating pickup locations in less than two years, none of which are targeted at regular consumers. Instead, Amazon is pursuing what could be called the Facebook approach: target college campuses first, and only later expand to serve the general population.

This explains why Amazon didn’t pick  up the RadioShack leases, like the rumor said last year. Also, the next time we hear a rumor of Amazon opening hundreds of stores, it will be worth remembering exactly where Amazon’s attention is focused right now. They’re looking at colleges first, and pickup locations first, rather than traditional retail.

Something tells me that the panic over Amazon directly competing with bookstores is overblown, wouldn’t you agree?

Amazon Moves Into Direct Competition With B&N College With New Unstore at University of Pennsylvania

Amazon has gained another foothold in their bid to conquer the college retail market, and this time they’re setting up shop just down the road from a B&N College store.

On Tuesday the retailer announced a new partnership with the University of Pennsylvania. Later this year, Amazon will open a 3,600 square foot package pickup point, or unstore, on the University of Pennsylvania campus. The unstore will be located at 1920 Commons building, where it will share space with the dining hall and a Starbucks.

university pennsylvania barnes nobleThe facility will feature a staffed pickup and drop off location as well as "communal work spaces with interactive media pods" where students can study privately or collaborate, and it will be located about three blocks away from the B&N-operated college bookstore (shown at right).

“We’re thrilled to bring a new experience to Penn that makes it more convenient for students to get everything they need for university life,” said Ripley MacDonald, Director of Amazon Student Programs. “We look forward to bringing this experience to even more college communities soon.”

The unstore at the University of Pennsylvania is Amazon’s first location on an Ivy League campus, and it is at least the fifth such store to open in the past year. Since 2015, Amazon has opened on-campus staffed pickup locations ([email protected], [email protected]) and they’ve also opened a couple off-campus locations near the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Cincinnati ([email protected], [email protected]).

AmazonatPurdue_1[1]Amazon has also said in the press release that they have agreements to open two more locations in 2016 with the University of California, Davis and the University of California, Berkeley. (UC Davis, as you might recall, was Amazon’s first college retail partner.)

But never mind Amazon’s future plans; did you notice what today’s announcement implies about Amazon’s strategy?

Amazon has been pursuing the college retail market since at least 2013, and they’ve shifted their strategy twice now. Amazon’s first strategy was to launch an affiliate partnership with UC Davis, and that was followed by unstores which replaced a college’s bookstore with a staffed pickup locations ([email protected], [email protected]).

Now Amazon has moved past replacing bookstores and is instead directly competing with them. Both [email protected] and [email protected] are located just off of campuses where Follett operates the college bookstore.

Correction: Follett operates the bookstore at Cinncinnati, but not Santa Barbara. That school has an independent bookstore (a Google search lead me in the wrong direction).

And now Amazon has an unstore in the works at the University of Pennsylvania which is only one block down and two blocks to the west of the college bookstore run by Barnes & Noble College.

Amazon is not the biggest player in the virtual college bookstore industry (that title would go to eCampus, with over 150 virtual bookstores) but Amazon is the boldest player. As the leading online retailer, Amazon is the main reason why so many schools are reporting a drop in bookstore revenues, and now Amazon is moving into direct competition with college bookstores.

This does not bode well for college bookstores like B&N College, many of which are struggling to cope with other pressures like high textbook prices and not enough rich students.

B&N spun off its college bookstore division last year into a separate company. Some have foreseen a rosy future for B&N College, but can this company survive fierce competition in a contracting market?

I don’t think so. Do you?

Amazon to Open Unstores in Cincinnati, Berkeley

amazon store seattle geekwireDetails are still scarce on that possible Amazon store in Seattle, but I know quite a few details on one of Amazon’s other brick-and-mortar ventures.

For the past few years Amazon has been blanketing college campuses with delivery lockers installed both on-campus and in off-campus convenience stores. At the same time Amazon has opened a few unstores delivery locations at select US universities, and now Amazon is combining the two programs.

The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that Amazon has filed a building permit for 241 Calhoun St (map), an address located literally less than one block south of the University of Cincinnati.

A tenant by the name of "Amazon Pickup Store" is now leasing a 2,363-square-foot space which is currently being renovated. Compared to the 40,000- to 70,000-square-foot space taken up by your average big box bookstore, that is a comparatively tiny storefront. The new Amazon location is about the same size as the unstore on the campus at Purdue University, or those RadioShack stores that rumors said Amazon wanted.

An Amazon job listing for a "Pickup Point Manager" suggests that Amazon will run the store just like their Purdue U. location (just like I predicted in February). Furthermore, the Business Courier reported that Amazon said it plans to expand the concept to other universities. Amazon lists open positions for UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara on its job site, listing the name of its subsidiary as "Amazon Pickups Points LLC".

That is apparently the new name for the unstores Amazon has opened on college campuses. You can find more details on Amazon’s website.

We cannot, however, say at this time whether the rumored Seattle store is part of this program. Geekwire looked into the story yesterday. They sent someone over, checked the licenses, and poked around, but could not prove a connection to Amazon.

They said that what they glimpsed through the shrouded windows suggested that this was a bookstore, and that one planning document said that the company was named "Project Anne". But they couldn’t show a clear connection to Amazon.

On the other hand Amazon still isn’t talking about that store, which is and of itself a telling clue.

If Amazon had no connection to that store they would have said so by now. Their continued silence suggests that there is a connection, one which Amazon was hoping we would not notice.

Shelf Awareness, Geekwire


Purdue University Sued Over Amazon UnStore Contract

purdue-university-logo[1]Amazon’s contract to run a staffed pickup and drop off location at Purdue is ruffling a few feathers.  The NACS (National Association of College Stores) is suing Purdue University to force it to reveal all of the details from the contract it signed with Amazon.

NACS had recently filed a public document request and asked for a copy of the contract, but the document arrived with multiple pages redacted. Citing the Indiana Access to Public Records Act, Purdue said that the redacted sections covered Amazon’s trade secrets and could not be disclosed.

The trade group disagreed, and filed suit last Tuesday. The NACS argues that the redacted materials constitute public records that the university must release upon request. It supported its arguments ny pointing out that the NACS had obtained similar information from the contract Amazon had signed with the University of California-Davis in late 2011.

I’m not sure that’s a good argument.

Just because UC Davis may have disclosed information it should have redacted, that doesn’t mean that Purdue is in the wrong. What’s more, the deal Amazon struck with UC Davis is quite different from the one signed with Purdue.

The Purdue University deal involved Amazon acting as a surrogate college bookstore by installing a staffed unstore on campus, while Amazon’s deal with UC Davis is closer to being an affiliate deal.

UC Davis gets a cut of purchases made by UC Davis students on, but continues to operate the on-campus bookstore. Amazon has also leased space to install lockers on the UC Davis campus, but that is closer to a real estate lease agreement than a contract containing trade secrets.

But in the case of the Purdue contract, that could well contain operational details which do indeed count as trade secrets.

I will definitely be following this lawsuit. Amazon beat out a number of other companies, including Follett and Cenage, to secure the Purdue deal. The contract they signed will likely reveal clues about Amazon’s intentions, and it will offer hints on the deals that Amazon might strike with other schools.

The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, for example, is currently letting companies bid on running a virtual college bookstore on campus. According to the documents I obtained, that store is going to replace the college bookstore with a location quite similar in concept to the unstore which Amazon has at Purdue.

Trade secrets are nothing new, and in fact the Indiana law does say that they are exempt from disclosure requirements. But the public also has an interest in learning the details of public contracts, so it will be interesting to see which way the judge rules.

Lafayette Journal Courier

Amazon Reinvents the Corner Store (Time to Sell Your B&N Edu, CVS, and Walgreen’s Stock)

A few weeks back the Daily Mail confusingly reported that Amazon was about to enter the drug store market. They got the story wrong (selling prescription medications online is not the same thing as the drug store market) but they also accidentally foreshadowed today’s Amazon news.

Amazon has launched what it is calling "Instant Pickup" service at five of its staffed college unstore locations across the US.

FILE PHOTO: An Amazon pickup location is seen at the University of California in Berkeley, California, U.S. August 14, 2017. Reuters/Jeffrey Dastin/File Photo

From the press release:

Amazon today introduced Instant Pickup, a free service offering Prime and Prime Student members a curated selection of daily essentials available for pickup in two minutes or less at five of Amazon’s fully staffed pickup locations in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Berkeley, Calif., Columbus, Ohio, and College Park, Md. Items available with Instant Pickup include snacks, drinks and electronics, as well as some of Amazon’s most popular devices.

With Instant Pickup, Prime and Prime Student members can use the Amazon App to shop hundreds of need-it-now items like food, cold drinks, personal care items, technology essentials and Amazon devices like the Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV and a selection of Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers. Prime members can browse the selection, place an order, even add last-minute items to an online order and pick it up from a self-service locker – all within two minutes or less.

Obviously this is not a new idea; it’s just a different take on convenience stores or bodegas. In fact, most college campuses already have similar stores on campus, it’s just that now Amazon has opened its own.

It used to be that you can walk into a store and get an item faster, but that’s no longer true.  If you live close to one of these five locations then it’s actually easier to buy from Amazon (no need to waste time browsing).

Amazon’s secret weapon used to be price, but soon it’s going to be convenience.

Case in point, I recently bought a pair of monitor arms for my desk. I got it on Amazon because I couldn’t find similar products in stock in a local store, and because Amazon promised same day shipping – on a Sunday. (And Amazon had the better price, too.)

No, I didn’t need it that fast, but I also saw no reason to wait.

If you own stock in B&N Edu or another company that does this type of retail, now would be a good time to sell. Amazon is not just competing with those other retailers, it has taken away their one advantage – immediacy.

Amazon to Open Second Bookstore in Boston, and a Pickup Location in College Park, MD

Hot on the heels of Amazon’s first New York bookstore comes new news that Amazon is also opening a second bookstore in the Boston metro area. The company had previously sought planning permission for a store in Dedham, MA, and now it is also hiring for a second store in Lynnfield, MA, which is about 36 miles away.

They haven’t revealed the location of the new store, but Amazon does have job listings open for an assistant manager, team leaders, and a store clerk. The job descriptions suggest that the store will carry books as well as Amazon devices.

Lynnfield is a relatively tiny suburb almost entirely given over to residential, but the store will likely be located in the town’s one significant mall, MarketStreet Lynnfield.

That is speculation, of course; the new Amazon Books could be located near Lynnfield rather than in it.

We do have more info on Amazon’s other recent retail expansion, however. Amazon has 3 bookstores on the west coast as well as a store planned for Chicago and 3 more on the east coast, and they also have around a couple dozen pickup locations on or near college campuses, including one just announced for College Park, MD.

Amazon, which has recently begun opening bookstores in major cities and pickup locations around college campuses, is bringing its retail concept to College Park, MD.

The e-commerce giant will open a physical location in Terrapin Row, the 445-unit student housing community that opened in September, serving the University of Maryland.

Amazon has put up its logo in the windows of the storefront, above, and a permit on the door lists the occupant as "Amazon Campus."

The new unstore is located at University of Maryland, College Park, which is just outside of Washington DC. It is within driving distance of much of the DC metro area, if you wanted to make a day trip.

I plan to do just that when it opens.

image by Rebecca Rainey

Amazon Go is the Future of Cafeterias, Not Grocery Stores

amazon-goAmazon’s taken the idea of automated self-checkouts to the next level.

Amazon’s new bricks-and-mortar grocery store doesn’t have at least one thing that supermarkets have – queues at the checkout counter. The online shopping giant’s new 1,800-square-foot convenience store, Amazon Go, in Seattle uses sensors to detect what shoppers have picked off the shelf and bills it to their Amazon account if they don’t put it back.

Amazon Go, currently available only for its employees, is expected to be publicly available early next year, the company said on Monday. Apart from groceries such as bread and milk, the store also offers ready-to-eat breakfasts, lunches and dinners made fresh by on-site chefs and local kitchens and bakeries, Amazon said.

Everyone is calling this a grocery store, but in its current form it is more of a new concept for a cafeteria or an automat. It’s not just that the location is small, but also that the selection is limited to snacks prepared on-site, basic groceries,  ready-to-eat meals, and Amazon Meal Kits.

This is not going to have Krogers quaking in their boots, although it might give convenience store chains like United Dairy Farmers sleepless nights.

The demo store just doesn’t carry enough items compared to the average grocery store, much less supermarkets, and furthermore, this concept is going to run into problems when introduced to a population which might not own smartphones.

This idea isn’t going to work for convenience stores, much lesss supermarkets. No, the only companies who should be concerned about Amazon Go (in its current form) are ones in the food service industry.

Once Amazon works the bugs out, this would be a great way to run a college cafeteria. Amazon’s system would require a greater upfront capital investment but the automation would also reduce the operating costs.

This idea won’t work with the general population because you can’t assume that all customers have the requisite app, but if an Amazon Go replaced a college cafeteria then it would be safe to assume that all of the college students would have the app.

Many schools require a student ID for the student meal plan, and if they cut a deal with Amazon then they would require that students use Amazon’s app (or perhaps they’d put an RFID chip in the student ID).

That is the perfect market for Amazon Go, and it would also have the added benefit of tying college students to Amazon in even greater numbers.

Amazon currently operates or plans to open nineteen pick up locations on and near college campuses. How much do you want to bet that those locations will soon be complimented by Amazon Go stores?


Amazon Opens Pickup Location at Stony Brook University

stony-brookAmazon opened their first unstore in New York state this week at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

Located on the lower level of SBU’s Frank Melville Library next to a campus store run by B&N Edu, [email protected] offers students and faculty a secure, convenient package pickup location which is staffed by Amazon employees who can help resolve customer service issues.

As I reported back in September, Amazon was already Stony Brook’s official textbook supplier. Barnes & Noble had passed on the opportunity, and instead now runs gift shops in three locations on the SBU campus.

Amazon faced fierce competition for their new pickup location. “We got three bids from traditional, brick-and-mortar (retailers) and three bids from online services,” Peter Baigent, SBU’s vice president for student affairs, told Innovate LI. “The priorities were affordable books, textbooks and course materials, efficiency, superior service for students and the ability to have the SBU brand well-recognized, locally and nationally. At the end of the day, Amazon secured the bid.”

Counting the planned locations like the one at the University of Wisconsin, this is Amazon’s nineteenth pickup location on or near a college campus. It opened for a soft launch on Wednesday, and officially opened today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Innovate LI

Barnes & Noble Education Launches OER Platform

30441240986_09e5625328_hHaving acquiesced to the realities of textbook retail, B&N Edu has turned to other ways of profiting off of curricula.

On Wednesday B&N Edu announced the launch of  Barnes & Noble Education Courseware, a turnkey OER solution which colleges and universities can use to implement OER textbooks and classroom resources.

OER, or open education resource, is the term used to describe open-licensed curriculum like the textbooks created by the CK12 Foundation.

“Open educational resources are a cost-effective solution for today’s educators, but according to our research, less than five percent of faculty adopt them, primarily due to effort required to assemble the right materials for the first day of class,” said Kanuj Malhotra, Chief Operating Officer, Digital Education. “BNED Courseware enables faculty to get started in minutes, easily add, delete or adapt content to match their syllabi and conveniently access on-campus support.”

The new platform was developed by LoudCloud, the edtech company B&N Edu acquired in March 2016. According to the press release, the site is built on "a foundation of high quality OER, including OpenStax".

It’s not clear whether B&N plans to charge for access to the platform, or only for extra features. (At a minimum B&N Edu will be charging for the POD textbooks.) LoudCloud does offer a half-dozen different services, including analytics, and that has been included in the new OER platform.

Either way, this dovetails nicely with B&N Edu’s other plans.

What with the college textbook market dying due to students being priced out of the market, college bookstores are finding that they either have to shut down, find other sources of revenue, or outsource the operation to companies like eCampus and Amazon.

B&N Edu is in the process of pivoting away from running college bookstores to running what are basically gift shops which sell branded merchandise and other non-book items. This pivot has freed B&N Edu from having to worry about sabotaging its textbook sales, and that has created an opportunity for B&N Edu to further disrupt the college textbook market with an OER platform.

Smart, that.

image by ASU English Department

The Disruption of the College Bookstore Market Enters Phase Three

8021709669_feccd058d9_hTrends and shifts in a market/industry generally go through three stages.

In the first stage, the trend/change is noticed and discussed by insiders. In the second stage, the trend/change is reported by niche publications like this blog.

And then in the third phase, months to a year after the second, the mainstream media notices what is going and covers the story.

The disruption in the college bookstore market has just reached that third stage.

The NYTimes is just beginning to notice what’s going on with college bookstores. They still haven’t grasped the scale of the disruption, including the number of schools which have dumped their bookstores or found another use for the space, but the NYTimes has caught on to Amazon’s growing presence.

There was a story in yesterday’s NYTimes which looked at deals Amazon has struck with US colleges and universities. This includes the unstores Amazon has opened on and new campuses as well as less visible programs:

As school started at Stony Brook University this month, two freshmen, Juan Adames and John Taveras, set out to buy textbooks.

They had not heard yet that the bookstore was a books store no more.

This summer, Stony Brook, part of the State University of New York, announced a partnership with the online retailer Amazon, now the university’s official book retailer. Students can purchase texts through a Stony Brook-specific Amazon page and have them delivered to campus.

In the campus store where the textbooks used to be, there are now adult coloring books, racks of university-branded polos and windbreakers and three narrow bookshelves displaying assorted novels. The rest of the store is a vibrant collage of spirit wear and school supplies: backpacks and baseball caps; pompom hats and striped scarves; notebooks and correction fluid. There will soon be a Starbucks.

“I was a bit thrown off by the appearance,” Mr. Adames said.

It is a conversation occurring on campuses across the country: If more and more students are buying and renting their course books online, why do they need a bookstore?

The Queens College bookstore went digital in April, forgoing brick-and-mortar altogether, Adam L. Rockman, the vice president of student affairs, said. Students order their books online, then have them shipped to personal addresses or to campus, where they are held until students pick them up.

“There are certainly some growing pains in getting used to it for many students,” Dr. Rockman said. “I think the human condition is not to really love change.”

The thing about this piece is that the NYTimes missed half the story. They only talk about Amazon and ignore any other vendor.

For example, they mentioned Queens College bookstore but they don’t bother to discuss the startup running the QC bookstore.

That would be Akademos, a company which I had always associated with digital textbook solutions. It now offers a virtual bookstore platform and has signed deals with at least a half-dozen schools. (They had announced the deals in press releases, but no one was paying attention.)

Akademos offers a more limited solution that MBS Direct or eCampus, each of which want to replace a college bookstore completely while Akademos just wants to solve college students' most critical financial issue – textbooks.

It’s not clear which solution is going to come out on top, but it’s worth keeping all these details in mind the next time we read about B&N Education.

P.S. Also, when Chegg (another startup competing in this market) goes bankrupt, just think of all of these competitors and that bankruptcy will make a lot more sense.

image by Brad Clinesmith

Amazon Reportedly Planning to Open "Up To 100" Pop-Up Stores

amazon-pop-up-tysons-corner-vaLong 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.

And so in addition to 3 planned drive-in grocery stores, eighteen unstore pick-up locations on or near college campuses, and four bookstores, Amazon now has 22 pop-up stores.

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

Amazon to Open Bookstore in Chicago in 2017

Amazon has opened one bookstore in Seattle and announced plans for two more bookstores in Portland and San Diego, and now we can add a fourth city to the list.

The Southport Corridor blog initially reported, and the Chicago Tribune has since confirmed, that Amazon is going to open a bookstore on the north side of Chicago at 3443 North Southport Ave.

The Amazon Books store will be taking the place of a recently closed bar, Mystic Celts. The bar’s owner had sold the building to an investment firm last year, and moved out at the beginning of 2016. The 7,200 square foot location currently looks something like this, only with plywood covering the windows and construction equipment parked out front:

Mystic Celt Southport Corridor Closing

Amazon has confirmed that they will be opening a store there next year. "We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Southport in Chicago," Amazon spokeswoman Deborah Bass said in an email Thursday.

This store will be the fourth Amazon Books when it opens. There is a rumor of a store in NYC, but it has yet to be confirmed.

The retailer is also developing three drive-in grocery stores in Seattle and San Francisco, and has opened or announced plans for 18 pickup locations on or near US college campuses, including one at MW-Madison.

Amazon to Open Drive-In Grocery Stores In Seattle, San Francisco

renderingAmazon’s brick & mortar retail empire includes a boatload of delivery lockers installed in convenience stores around the world, three bookstores, eighteen unstore pickup locations (including most recently, at the University of Illinois Chicago).

And now we can add three non-traditional grocery stores to the list.
Geekwire reports that Amazon is remodeling a restaurant (map). The project shows every sign of Amazon’s usual obsession with secrecy:

Permit filings uncovered by GeekWire show plans to renovate the former Louie’s Cuisine of China site, at 5100 15th Ave. N.W. in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, into a 9,759-square-foot retail space where customers can pick up groceries that they’ve ordered online, in what the project team calls “a new model of grocery shopping.”

The company appears to be doing its best to keep its involvement under wraps. Planning documents filed with the city of Seattle use the mysterious moniker “Project X,” with no reference to the e-commerce giant. Even the people building the project don’t know what’s happening.

“No idea,” one worker said when asked what would be going into the building. “We had to sign our life away. Half the guys in there don’t even know what they are working on.”

The planning docs show a store with the classic drive-in bays, although as you can see it is merely labeled Project X:


The first Amazon Books in Seattle was remodeled under a similar level of secrecy (it was called Project Ann), and Amazon usually files its FCC paperwork under front companies, so all this cloak and dagger doesn’t protect Amazon’s business so much as it tells us who is behind the curtain.

Of course, we already knew who was opening the store as soon as we read "drive-in grocery store".

Last year the Silicon Valley Business Journal broke the news that Amazon was building a drive-in grocery store in Sunnyvale, CA (a Bay area town bordering Mountain View). And then in May 2016 it reported on a second location, this time in San Carlos, CA "at a site at 380 Industrial Road".

That second location has the same architect as the Seattle store and is being leased by one of Amazon’s real estate subsidiaries.

There’s no first-hand or inside info on how the stores will operate, but the plans submitted to the planning commission revealed the concept image at the head of this post, and the architect did tell the planning commission that:

Customers will purchase their products online and later pick- up their purchased products at the site. When placing a purchase order, customers will schedule a specific 15 minute to 2 hour pick-up window. Peak timeslots will sell out, which will help manage traffic flow within the customer loading area adjacent to the building. When picking up purchased items, customers either can drive into a designated loading area with 9 parking stalls where the purchased items will be delivered to their cars (customers will be directed to turn off their engines once they park to wait for their delivery), or they can arrive on foot or bicycle and pick-up their items in a reception area. The average customer wait time on-site is expected to be 5 minutes.

From the description this sounds like the stores will operate as an AmazonFresh depot which could save you shipping costs while adapting to your schedule.

Amazon has been delivering groceries in the Bay area and other metropolitan areas for several years now, and apparently this could be the next step.

There is no info, however, on how many stores will open, or where. As expected, Amazon isn’t talking.

Geekwire, Silicon Valley Business Journal

Barnes & Noble Education is Opening College Bookstores Right and Left

3088174521_7dfb28274e_bWhen B&N Education was spun off from Barnes & Noble last year, it said it was going to expand its presence in the college bookstore industry by signing new contracts with colleges and universities to run their bookstores. While at that time that sounded like the usual optimistic hype found in a prospectus, as we have seen over the past month there is a fair amount of truth to the hype.

I haven’t been writing about it, but a number of schools, including Collin College in Texas, Monroe College in New York,  Georgetown University, Youngstown State U in Ohio, Northern Michigan U.Rhode Island College, other schools have recently signed contracts with B&N.

Barnes & Noble has signed more deals with colleges and universities in the past couple years than Amazon. The latter has announced or opened a total of 18 pickup locations on or near colleges in the past couple years, including unstores at UW-Madison and the University of Illinois Chicago.

In fact, B&N announced last week that they had signed 18 new contracts this fiscal year, and close to a couple dozen contracts in the last one.  A full list of contracts awarded for stores to open in FY2017 includes:

  • Assumption College
  • Bates Technical College
  • Chabot College
  • Coastal Carolina University
  • Collin College
  • Colorado College
  • Georgetown University
  • Lincoln Memorial University
  • Northern Michigan University
  • Ocean County College
  • Rhode Island College
  • Robeson Community College
  • Seton Hill University
  • St. Mary’s University
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Youngstown State University

With that kind of expansion, what are B&N Ed’s chances for succeeding in an industry being disrupted by online retailers like eCampus, MBS Direct, and Amazon?

image by Tony Webster