Amazon iterates its physical bookstore with 10th opening in San Jose and Bellevue

When I joined Microsoft there were many millionaires who had the idea of retiring and opening a bookstore with coffee shop. Their names were not Jeff Bezos or Howard Schultz. Luckily I don't know of anyone who followed through on their dream which would have turned into a nightmare competing against Amazon and Starbucks.

Amazon is reinventing retail and on Aug 24th it opened its 10th stores in San Jose and Bellevue. I have been to Amazon bookstore in University Village (Seattle) and I want to go to the Bellevue store in Bellevue Square.  Next week I should have time to go to the San Jose store. Why go to the physical store? Because Amazon is using data to reinvent retail and I curious to see the spaces.

San Francisco Chronicle covered the San Jose store as an irritant to the local independent book sellers.

“I think it’s ironic — Amazon has been so predatory to brick-and-mortars in general,” said Calvin Crosby, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

“There’s always a new way for Amazon to take a percentage of our sales,” he said.

Crosby has visited Amazon Books’ New York City location, and said he wasn’t impressed, calling it “a kiosk” and “showroom-y.” He said the growth of Amazon bookstores detracts from local businesses, which offer a deeper experience for customers. “You get much more than a book put in your hand when you go to an independent bookstore.”

Typically, a small bookstore would stock 8,000 to 10,000 titles, substantially more than San Jose’s Amazon Books, he said.

The South Bay has a rich history of independent bookstores, Crosby said. Books Inc., which has locations around the Bay Area, traces its history back to the California Gold Rush. Family bookstore Hicklebee’s has been in San Jose since 1979, and Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park opened more than 60 years ago.

I like Geekwire's article which focuses on how the bookstore concept has evolved.

“We got a lot of feedback from customers saying they were having a hard time, both because the aisles weren’t as wide, but also because it was just harder to see down to the bottom shelf,” Garavaglia said.

The Bellevue store is smaller than the University Village one — 4,600 square feet versus 5,500 — but the more spacious aisles and a bigger area dedicated to demos of Amazon devices like the Echo and Echo Show, make the space feel bigger than it is.

Garavaglia calls the stores a “mecca of discovery” that take advantage of 20-plus years of selling books online. It uses data from customer purchases, as well nearly endless reviews, to decide which books to put in stores. What’s changed is the variety of ways Amazon has instituted to display books.

For example, in Bellevue, a technology hub all its own, the store has an endcap related to coding books. Customers at other stores have told Amazon they want more subsets of larger categories, hence the presence of a “historical fiction” section at the new store.

“We keep trying different features that allow us to bring that data to facilitate discovery for our customers,” Garavaglia said.