It's good to be king. Just ask Amazon, the number 1 most popular e-commerce website, according to a poll taken last September by the National Retail Foundation. Even as retail stores fiddle their worry beads, Amazon is pressing its advantages and looking to expand its all-encompassing grip on our willing nation of consumers.
That Amazon would foray into brick-and-mortar retailing at a time when iconic stores like Sports Authority and American Apparel are closing their doors might come as a surprise to most Americans.
But not so the caffeine-addicted citizens of Seattle, where Amazon operates its first physical bookstore from an outdoor mall. San Diego is next in line to receive an Amazon bookstore, and according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, CEO Jeff Bezos is promising more, although he remains coy on the number of new stores he'll be putting up.
A CEO for mall operator General Growth Properties, Sandeep Mathrani, predicted in February that Amazon was planning hundreds of retail bookstores throughout the U.S.
The Amazon Seattle bookstore features several innovations. For one thing, all the books are displayed facing forward and accompanied by a card showing a review and the Amazon.com customer ratings. The store also lets customers test-drive all the latest Amazon devices. Prices at Amazon Books match those from Amazon.com.
Mr. Bezos, speaking at Amazon's annual meeting earlier this week, is thinking big right now. His company is rolling out several lines of private-label items, including Happy Belly foods, Wickedly Prime snacks, Presto! household products and Mama Bear baby products.
Amazon's move into perishable foods carries some risks related to quality control and health issues. A problem in this arena could tarnish the company's reputation.
On yet another front, Amazon is reported to be on the prowl for a technology company to run its fast-growing freight transportation network.
Amazon recently entered into the global $150 billion/year market of freight forwarding by registering to arrange shipments of ocean cargo and signing deals to lease cargo planes. These moves will reduce shipping costs from factories in Asia to Amazon's American warehouses. It should also save money for Amazon.com's third-party sellers.
The transportation initiative will seek to acquire or license technology for hiring fleets of planes, ships and trucks, as well as mapping the most efficient shipping routes. These efforts should help drive down prices for consumers. They could also pose a threat to the recent technological advancements of freight forwarding companies.
Mr. Bezos also gave an enthusiastic, if vague, pitch for the company's Prime membership, which provides free shipping and access to streaming video for $99 a year. It's reported that Amazon's new private-label brands will only be available to Prime members. Bezos touted the Prime Now program that provides one-hour delivery in 30 cities around the globe.
Amazon also operates its Web Services cloud computing unit for customers looking to rent computing power to clients. The service will achieve sales in 2016 of at least $10 billion, according to Bezos. In the cloud-computing marketplace, Amazon faces stiff competition from Google and Microsoft.
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Images courtesy of Amazon.com