On a recent trip across the Pond, Chairman Tim Garratt popped in to Amazon's latest bricks-and-mortar venture in New York which, perhaps perversely, seems to be bringing its virtual offering to real life. Here's his review
New York has always fascinated me. As Frank Sinatra famously sang: it's a city that never sleeps and each time I visit, I can’t help but be amazed at how the face of the retail landscape changes. There are few retailers it seems to me who have a pitch for life. For some, this is clearly because of the rise in rents as an area improves. But they don’t seem to mind.
It can make finding shops a bit tricky though as they move often, and sometimes just a few streets away. The brilliant vinyl shop, Bleecker Street Records isn’t on Bleecker Street any longer. It’s now around the corner on 4th Street (which doesn’t have quite the same ring!)
And now, in SoHo there’s a new kid on the block. It’s called Amazon 4-Star.
Amazon has opened a traditional retail shop, stocked with merchandise from its on-line ‘store’ which has achieved a four-star rating.
It’s a mash-up of goods, as there’s no real logic to the stock type; there's everything from Alexa-enabled devices to gifts for pets. The result is like a modern-day jumble sale. Presumably, the stock must also be dynamic as ratings and most popular items must surely change? They do stock some of their own basics range. I guess the delivery time and the ‘You’ve missed the delivery man’ cards are removed from the process.
But here we have one of the main destroyers of the High Street sat slap, bang in the middle of it with two metaphorical fingers stuck up at their neighbours.
Oddly, I don’t think the store works, because it doesn’t know what it is. Successful New York shops fill niche gaps; they are often quirky away from 5th Avenue and this is what makes it a unique place to explore. But the new Amazon offering is just a vanilla assortment of stuff. I didn’t want one of everything so I came out with nothing.
My mind wandered to the fact that it is known that the ratings system is often skewed by ‘false’ reviews. Fake news as the bloke in charge over there would say!
I'll be interested to know how this retail development turns out...