CLICKS NOT BRICKS

No, Amazon is not opening a physical store in New York for the holiday shopping season

Back in October, it was widely reported that Amazon would open a retail store in the heart of Manhattan, just in time for the holiday season. It would be “the first brick-and-mortar outlet in its 20-year history,” declared the Wall Street Journal (paywall), which had the story first. It would be the e-commerce giant’s “Miracle on 34th Street,” a “physical extension” of the online merchandising prowess that has caused so much pain for brick-and-mortar retailers over the past two decades.

Well, the holiday shopping season is now officially in full swing, yet at the storefronts at 7 West 34th St., the reported home of the new Amazon project, directly across from the Empire State Building and just a stone’s throw away from that historic symbol of retail called Macy’s, there is no sign of Amazon to be found.

(I walked past the building today on my way to Quartz’s headquarters.) Buried within this lengthy analysis (paywall) of Amazon’s business model, published yesterday in the New York Times, is the following explanation:

[P]eople are not going to be getting their stuff from an Amazon store in Midtown Manhattan this holiday season. A spokeswoman said in a statement that the 470,000-square-foot building was “primarily” corporate office space, and that the ground floor retail shops would be subleased.

A spokesman for Amazon tells Quartz, via email, that the “NY Times is right.” The Seattle Times also reported last month that Amazon currently has no plans to open a store in the building

So what gives? To be fair, the original report in the Journal carefully explained that the facility in question would function as a “mini warehouse, with limited inventory for same-day delivery within New York, product returns and exchanges, and pickups of online orders.” Amazon’s existing warehouses typically are found in industrial or rural areas and do not allow for in-person pickups. So the New York facility would have been a departure.

But a mini-warehouse that allows for product pickups is not exactly a brick-and-mortar retail store.

Amazon has a 17-year lease on the space. So, while it’s not clear how long the subleases on the retail storefronts will last, it’s possible an Amazon store might happen someday. Just not in time for Christmas.

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