From The Dallas Morning News:
When the big kahuna in your category wants to expand on your turf, it’s usually nothing for a retailer to get excited about. But here’s an honest reaction from Dallas-based Half Price Books to the prospect of Amazon.com opening lots of bookstores nationwide.
First, Amazon is probably finding out with the one store it opened in Seattle last year, that “it’s not as easy [as] running a warehouse,” said Half Price Books executive vice president Kathy Doyle Thomas.
But more importantly, it’s a bit of vindication for Half Price Books that Amazon wants in on the brick-and-mortar scene. “I’m excited that they see what we believe that the printed word isn’t dead,” Thomas said. “We’ve known for 44 years that people like to browse and shop bookstores.”
Half Price Books with 126 stores in 16 states and sales of $260 million last year, is the third largest U.S. bookstore chain behind Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
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A little reconnaissance shopping at the Seattle store revealed some issues, she said. “We know how to manage stores with smart intelligent people who have to know about authors and subjects. It’s harder to do that than putting a book in a shipping box,” Thomas said. “Plus, space is valuable and you have to put every square foot to work.”
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“I worry that they’ll keep other bookstores out of shopping centers if they expand,” she said. There’s been a small resurgence in independent bookstores as entrpreneurs combine cafés and books like Serj Books & Local Food in Downtown Dallas and The Wild Detectives in Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts District.
Thomas said if Amazon does move forward with brick-and-mortar stores, it may have more to do with the cost of shipping returns. That’s something that online customer service tracker StellaService said is likely encouraging Amazon to at least explore stores in its future.
“If this report is true, it is a clear move by Amazon to respond to how brick-and-mortar retailers have successfully invested in technology to leverage their physical stores to close the speed-and-efficiency gap with Amazon,” said Kevon Hills, StellaService vice president of research.
It would allow Amazon to offer free returns, which only its Prime members get now. “Buy online, return in store” has become an advantage major chains have carved out over Amazon, Hills said.
“Today Amazon can process refunds within a day or two, but cannot compete with retailers who offer ‘free return shipping’ by allowing shoppers to drop off a return at their neighborhood store,” he said. “Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, and other brick-and-mortar retailers operate at an advantage because they don’t charge shipping when consumers make returns in stores.”
Link to the rest at The Dallas Morning News and thanks to Darren for the tip.
On the few purchases PG has returned to Amazon, he’s never had to pay for return shipping unless the return was the result of his own mistake – ordering the wrong size, etc. Even with those, a lot of items offer free returns – you’ll see a designation next to the price of the product in the product description.
Additionally, it’s much easier for PG to drop a return into a UPS box than it is to drive to a retail store, figure out where he goes to return something, then wait for the right person to show up and process the return.