October 10, 2014

Amazon is opening a warehouse in Manhattan, but it’s not crazy enough to open a bookstore


The pan your favorite takeout place already has on hand.

The pan your favorite takeout place already has on hand.

Amazon is opening a store in Manhattan. Nobody freak out–Amazon’s not going into the brick-and-mortar business. At least not just yet.

This is a pop-up store. For the holiday season.

Physical stores do boring stuff like “charge sales tax” and “treat their employees well” and “stock books,” instead of ordering small quantities and listing them as out of stock if they’ve sold. Amazon doesn’t want to deal with any of that.

Following the Argos model of click-and-collect, Amazon wants you to pick up the order so you’re not sitting at home, waiting a whole twenty-four hours to get your dog food. Instead, you can take a trip to their “mini-warehouse” across from the Empire State Building. This is a small part of the company’s effort to expand its warehousing worldwide.

Really, this seems like a small effort to boost Amazon stock. But every report yesterday noted that Amazon’s stock actually declined by 2% after the announcement.

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC she wouldn’t comment, except to say, “We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan.” So maybe the decline is just due to loss of faith in Amazon PR.

Here’s a line justifying a consumer need for Amazon stores, coming to us from the WSJ:

A customer could, for example, order a pan in the morning and pick it up that evening in time to use for dinner.

Does the company believe New Yorkers will make a special trip to a warehouse on 34th Street to pick up a pan for dinner? We’re famously bratty about this. We can get just about any kind of takeout delivered at home in less than thirty minutes. And then we don’t have to store the pan in our appallingly small kitchens. The point of the in-store pick-up idea is that Amazon won’t have to bother delivering to quite so many people, especially during the season that made UPS crumble last year.

Anyway, the news is making headlines as Amazon’s first store. The same headline circulated in 2009, and again in Seattle in 2012 (the company was experimenting with a model based on Apple stores). For now, this is like the Amazon Drone: it’s in the headlines, but not up and running just yet.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.