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Amazon’s New Department Stores: Robots and 4 More Things to Expect

Technology to play a central role in the shopping experience.

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Amazon Hub Locker in San Jose, CA
Amazon Hub Locker in San Jose, CA

The retail and tech punditry were abuzz following a recent report from The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) spelling out what Amazon (Seattle) has planned for its department stores, the e-commerce giant’s latest foray into brick and mortar.

Sources told the outlet that shoppers can expect technology to play a starring role, with stores utilizing robots, QR codes and other gadgets aimed at making the shopping experience more convenient.

Concerning the story’s validity, an Amazon spokesperson contacted a smattering of news sites and blogs to neither confirm nor deny the reporting: “As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on rumors or speculation,” the spokesperson said.

Nonetheless, here’s what sources told The Journal regarding Amazon’s department stores:

  • They will mainly sell clothes – from Amazon’s own label as well as from brands outside the company – with the fashion styles emulating what one might find at The Gap.
  • Amazon has tested a feature that would allow customers to scan QR codes of items they want to try on, which would notify staff to place those items in a dressing room.
  • Touch screens could be included in the dressing rooms, which shoppers can use to request additional items.
  • Amazon may introduce robots and other automated machines, though how they’ll be utilized is unclear.
  • The stores could open next year and are likely to debut in Ohio and California. They are expected to be around 30,000 square feet, smaller than normal department stores.

As for the viability of the concept – which doesn’t seem fresh outside of its rumored tech integrations – time will tell. The Motley Fool examines some of the challenges the company might encounter, asking – can Amazon really do department stores better?

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