New York City, USA : Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) on Wednesday said that it is opening a new bricks-and-mortar store that will feature a selection of goods curated partly by local consumers’ online shopping habits, part of its efforts to reshape the way people shop.
Amazon 4-star will open to the public on Thursday in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, the company said in a blog post. Items include those ranked four stars or above and will feature a variety of goods.
Drawing on its wealth of customer data, Amazon has stocked the store with its bestsellers (toys, household goods and a range of other products) as well as products popular with New Yorkers. The shop, known as Amazon 4-star, will let customers play with Echo speakers, Kindle e-readers and other devices made by the company. It will also sell books, games and kitchenware.
The news marks Amazon’s latest incursion into the turf of rivals such as Target Corp, which has courted urban shoppers with new small-format stores. It also highlights how the world’s largest online retailer, famous for upending retail chains’ business, is increasingly turning to physical stores to please customers.
Digital price tags will line the shelves of Amazon 4-star. That will allow items’ prices to fluctuate, so members of Amazon’s loyalty club Prime will always pay the online price in the store.
Those without membership in the fast-shipping club will be charged the typically higher list price, unless they sign up for Prime on the spot. Amazon’s chain of more than a dozen book stores operates in the same way.
Encouraging sign-ups is key to the company’s strategy because Prime members tend to shop more on Amazon.com.
The extent of Amazon’s ambition for the new store format is unclear. The company is known for experimentation, and a spokesman declined to comment on expansion plans.
Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said Amazon will add new stores if the format takes off, but he expects it may not.
“If I’m looking for a television and the store is full of kitchen appliances, it doesn’t help me very much,” he said.
Grocery remains the other key category for Amazon’s bricks-and-mortar play.
The company bought Whole Foods Market in a US$13.7 billion deal last year, from which it is now delivering fresh food to shoppers’ homes. It is also rolling out smaller grocery shops known as Amazon Go, where in-store technology allows customers to walk out with items and have their credit cards billed without having to stop by a cash register.
Amazon Invests In Prefab Home-builder
Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) has made its first investment in a home-builder, just days after the company unveiled a new line-up of smart-home and Echo devices.
Amazon Alexa Fund has invested in Plant Prefab, a California-based startup that builds prefabricated custom single – and multifamily houses. Plant Prefab was spun out of LivingHomes in 2016.
Plant Prefab said Tuesday it has raised a $6.7 million Series A funding round that included Obvious Ventures and the Amazon Alexa Fund.
The company plans to invest the new round of funding in new senior hires, building the marketing and sales team, and developing its patented Plant Building System.
Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund said, “Plant Prefab is a leader in home design and an emerging, innovative player in home manufacturing. We’re thrilled to support them as they make sustainable, connected homes more accessible to customers and developers.”
Plant Prefab says it is focused on sustainable construction, materials, processes and operations. According to the company, its homes are built off-site, thereby reducing construction time by 50 percent and cost by 10 to 25 percent in major cities.
The startup claims its homes are an ideal solution for rebuilding efforts in areas affected by natural disasters.
Alexa Fund, Amazon’s $200 million venture capital commitment, has typically invested in startups focused on voice technology. However, the investment in a home-builder represents a major change from previous investments.
Last Thursday, Amazon unveiled new Alexa-powered smart home devices, including AmazonBasics Microwave, a counter-top microwave oven, and Amazon Smart Plug, which can control compatible lights, fans and coffee makers.
Earlier this year, Amazon acquired the smart doorbell maker Ring in a deal valued at more than $1 billion. The deal plays to Amazon’s efforts to control the devices that power smart homes.
Amazon is reportedly working on building its first-ever home robot, code-named “Vesta,” after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family.