Should Amazon.com go bricks and mortar?

My interest was piqued by the stories emerging this weekend that online bookseller Amazon.com was preparing to launch an assault on the UK high street.

Amazon has vehemently denied any such move saying that it has “no plans to open physical stores anywhere in the world”.

Whether that turns out to be the case or not, the idea is an interesting reversal of the norm.

It’s unusual for an online business to launch in the real world. Far more common to see a retailer set up shop in the cyber world after high street operations crumble. Woolworths and Zavvi, the great casualties of the recession are now both trading exclusively online.

Amazon has taken a lot of flak and been blamed for playing a major role in bringing high street book stores to their knees, so speculation that it would open its doors just as Borders looks set to close smacked a little of jumping into its grave before it was even cold.

Sentimentalities aside, it could be a coup for Amazon to slip into the space left by the collapse of the Borders chain.

The speculation has been that Amazon would operate a “click and collect” style store, akin to Argos’ catalogue stores.

If it did so, it would probably do a well, as retailers that allow customers to buy online and collect at their convenience are doing a roaring trade.

Argos has said that during the postal strikes, the volume of customers using its online Check & Reserve service was up almost 100% on the previous year and it accounted for 40 % of consumer electronic.

John Lewis, Waitrose and Asda have launched services that allow customers to buy online and collect in store, all of which have been welcomed by shoppers as a convenient additional service.

But, while I think Amazon could definitely do well if it ventured onto the high street, it would need to balance an efficient and effective catalogue style store with creating an in-store experience that would satisfy book lovers as well as those seeking good prices.

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