The line is getting even more blurry between online retailing and physical shopping: Amazon.com, the e-commerce giant that has put fear in the hearts of brick-and-mortar retailers, appears to be going old-school this holiday season and reportedly opening its own store in New York.
The store, set to open on 34th Street in Manhattan, is just the latest sign that online merchants are learning the value of offering a physical store to shoppers.
California retailers such as JustFab Inc. and SwimSpot that were once digital-only have opened offline locations. Men's fashion label Bonobos debuted a La Brea Boulevard store this summer. Even Los Angeles e-tailer Nasty Gal, whose founder Sophia Amoruso got her start selling vintage clothes on EBay, has announced plans to launch a shop in the Southland.
Online retailers "are seeing there is something to be gained by having an experience for consumers that is hands-on, that is experiential in nature instead of click and buy," said analyst Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics Inc.
Amazon.com would be the biggest name to date to take a stab at traditional retailing.
There have been rumors for years that the Seattle company would go this route. Two years ago, the Internet buzzed with speculation that Amazon was hunting for a brick-and-mortar space in its hometown. The retailer has also set up metal lockers around the country in places like 7-Eleven stores so people can conveniently pick up packages.
The Manhattan space will contain a selection of inventory to accommodate local same-day delivery and shoppers who want to pick up products bought online, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources.
Amazon was also mulling over the idea of using the space as a showroom for its gadgets, such as its Kindle e-readers and Fire smartphone, the report said. A successful trial could persuade the company to open stores in other cities around the country, the Journal said.
But the company is remaining tight-lipped about its plans. Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman would say only that "we have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan."
Observers said Amazon's experiment could be a smart move for the online company. Not only does the company have instant name recognition, but its logistics prowess is rivaled only by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., analysts said.
"It certainly means more pressure and more competition for other retailers, particularly big-box retailers," Perkins said.
Amazon has already shaken up the world of retailing, he added. "Why not shake it up again?"