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Amazon plans to shut down 87 pop-up stores around the US, the Wall Street Journal reports, “ending the retailer’s yearslong experiment with these small shops as the company tinkers with an evolving bricks-and-mortar strategy.”

At the same time, Amazon says it plans to expand its Amazon Books chain, and Amazon Four Star stores, each of which offers what the company calls “a more comprehensive customer experience and broader selection.”

The pop-up stores operate in malls, department stores like Kohl’s, and even in some of Amazon’s own Whole Food stores. “These shops,” the Journal writes, “typically occupy a few hundred square feet of space and showcase devices like voice-assistant speakers, tablets and Kindle e-readers. They feature staff, dressed casually in black Amazon T-shirts, who encourage passersby to sample the newest products … Amazon has been experimenting with the pop-up concept since at least 2014, using such stores to educate customers about its Echo and Alexa devices and to allow customers to trade in old Kindles or Fire tablets for credit. Some of the stores have been open only for a few months.”

The Journal notes that “the pop-up-store closings come as Amazon takes new steps to offer a wider variety of products in an effort to improve how it interacts with its millions of customers. The company is preparing to roll out a new line of grocery stores and ramp up its Amazon Go cashierless convenience stores in more locations.”
KC's View:
Let’s go back to something that Tom Furphy said yesterday in “The Innovation Conversation”…

We have always said that Amazon will experiment with a variety of formats as they work to solve the totality of their customer's needs. This likely means developing physical experiences that don't conform to traditional paradigms. Formats evolve. They have forever and the will continue to do so forever.

This is yet another example of this approach.

Jeff Bezos likes to say that “it isn’t an experiment if you know how it is going to turn out.” The pop-up stores were an experiment, almost certainly one from which Amazon learned a lot, and now it is time to move on.

A friend of mine Patrick Spear of GMDC, likes to say that it is important to make sure that “the juice is worth the squeeze.” Amazon constantly measures, constantly evaluates, and constantly thinks of its efforts within the context of solving the totality of its customers’ needs.

Some will position this move as representing a failure. Maybe…but maybe it is a failure the same way that its smart phone was a failure. It didn’t succeed, but everything Amazon learned from the experience informed its highly successful Alexa-based systems.