Starting today, Amazon will open 10 stores around the UK as part of a scheme that helps small businesses combine online and in-person sales. The first one is opening in Manchester.
These new stores will sell products like home ware, health and beauty goods, food and drink, and electronics. They will also be used as a place for customers to see and try out products from online-only brands like Swifty Scooters. Amazon says the pilot scheme will run for one year to test the viability of the concept.
Amazon has had a mixed history with brick and mortar stores. The supermarket chain, Amazon Go, has 12 branches in US cities and has been growing, regardless of the criticism that the cashless system is discriminatory and harmful to local employment prospects. There are also the Amazon Books stores, 17 of which have opened near universities. In the past, the company announced to expand the bookstores to more locations.
But not all its physical retail schemes have been so profitable. Its trialed pop-up kiosks at 87 locations in the U.S. got shut down earlier this year, proving the trial wasn’t as lucrative as expected. Amazon is trying the pop-up approach one more time, this time highlighting previously online-only products and companies which stand to benefit from in-person sales.
Amazon assures the new scheme will help small businesses by training new workers and offering digital training events. To accomplish this, it has set aside one million pounds for training schemes for 150 full-time apprentices to specialize in productivity and online sales. Small businesses, which currently sell well online, could also benefit from customers interacting with their products in person, so this could indeed be a help.
But Amazon will be the main beneficiary of these plans, which will have a small but significant physical presence in the UK. For the company’s long-term growth, having brick and mortar stores will allow customers to browse for products they wouldn’t necessarily search online, while also having the benefits of impulse buys. And maybe the most valuable thing: it could help raising Amazon’s reputation.