Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Processing an Amazon encounter

I’ve something to process. By writing to you it may help. I’ve thought of sharing it on our store’s blog, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Well, a few days later, I guess that it is.

Last week Amazon opened, with much media fanfare, its first bricks and mortar bookstore. It’s in the University Village upscale shopping center in Seattle. As things worked out last week we had a visit from the sales rep of our biggest supplier of books and publisher, Bryan. Nancy told Bryan that Amazon had opened their first bricks and mortar store to his jaw dropping astonishment. 

Amazon, by their radical business model of selling books below the wholesale price has forced tens of thousands of independent bookstores out of business. It is the height of chutzpah for them now to open their own bricks and mortar store. Bryan took us to lunch after his business meeting with us was completed. Before we stopped at a restaurant we visited the new Amazon store. The response of all three of us, try as I could to look at the store in an unbiased attitude, was very critical. 

The store’s appearance, inside and out, fits with the other retailers in University Village. The building fits Seattle-rich-and-prosperous with an outdoorsy flair. All wooden flooring. All rough wood shelving. Lots of light, tall ceiling with floor-to-ceiling windows. As a bookstore the bookshelves were very tall and aisles too narrow where if one does not know the person in the aisle it is uncomfortable to squeeze by the person. All books are displayed face-out with many copies, one title I estimated with 20 copies behind each other. And the books are displayed floor to top of book rack which means if you want to really see the title and cover of the books on the bottom shelf you need to squat way down or kneel.

Instruction signs informing us that to know Amazon’s price for a title you simply scan the bar code with your smart phone using the Amazon app and your smart phone will display the price. I took a book to Check Out to have her scan the bar code and then tell me the price. Later I located a scanner that customers can use on their own to determine today’s price for a title, but the scanner was poorly marked and out of the way.

Down the center of the store was a huge display of Amazon products including the Fire tablet and Kindle, as well as computer apps controlled by handheld devices.

Our sales rep Bryan was astonished at the price of the book after I was informed by the woman at Check Out. He indicated that the price was below wholesale and that his publisher did not sell books at such a discount. As a publisher he shared with us that Amazon is the most difficult supplier to work with. They have very detailed requirements that the publisher must meet, even including the specific size of pallets on which they accept shipments (so that the robots in the Amazon warehouses can access the products).

To conclude, the store obviously cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to construct and had a large number of employees while selling books below the price that they pay for them. And Amazon can try out a bricks and mortar store as a promotional item without regard to cost. It is a business practice that has obviously worked in their favor while causing huge problems for traditional retailers and producers of products.

Thankfully we found their religion section to be small with titles of little depth to the content. There was not a single bible displayed. Nancy found one book in the section that we carry in our niche market store.

I felt kind of like a Bernie Sanders supporter attending a Donald Trump media event. I could see no reason that I would want to return to that store and shop.

1 comment:

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