Amazon is launching a pilot scheme which will enable 100 small online businesses to get the opportunity to sell their goods in 10 Amazon pop-up stores in UK high streets.

Clicks And Mortar

The pop-up stores will be branded as ‘Clicks and Mortar’ and will enable small online businesses selling homeware, health and beauty, food and drink and electronics to get their first taste of selling from a physical store in a UK high street. The stores may also offer customers the chance to discover new brands on their local high streets.

Amazon had already tested the pop-up store idea in the UK, albeit briefly and on a small scale, when last October it opened a fashion store in Baker Street in London to gauge customer opinions. The online shopping giant has also opened a “Home of Black Friday” store as part of the annual retail event in London over the last two years.

Following eBay

Last month, as part of its own month-long retail experiment, eBay opened a “concept” store in Wolverhampton’s i10 building, in which 40 businesses have been able to offer interactive experiences to buyers, such as workshops and tutorials. eBay reportedly launched the store as part of a partnership between itself and Wolverhampton Council after its own research showed that showed a quarter of small UK retailers did not have an online presence. The store was designed to show how stores of the future could combine technology with a human connection.

Tough Times On The High Street

The UK high street and many of its famous brand occupants have been going tough times, much of which has been blamed on a move to online shopping and competition from online brands and stores, high business rates, and a further reduction in footfall as more high street stores become empty and less attractive to shoppers. 

For example, the latest BRC research shows that one in 10 shops in UK town centres is lying empty and that the vacancy rate has risen over the last four quarters and is now the highest reading since April 2015. 

Many big chains have announced widescale branch closures e.g. Debenham’s having to close 22 stores, the Topshop group of stores facing problems, Boots possibly closing 200 branches, and Marks & Spencer now planning to close 72 big high street stores in addition to the 48 already closed.

Criticism

Amazon has faced criticism from some business and retail commentators for the working conditions in its warehouses, and over the relatively small amount of tax that pays in the UK.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For a limited number of small online retailers, the pop-up stores offer a great opportunity to have a low-risk, well-supported bricks and mortar retail experience and a chance to gain visibility for their brands.  For the high street, Amazon pop-ups may offer a brief boost in variety, footfall, and interest. For Amazon, one of the big online retailers that some would say have contributed (with other online retailers and high business rates) to the decline of the high street, the pilot offers them a chance to boost their brand and good publicity at a time when the many vacant stores gives them the opportunity to choose some great high street locations in major UK towns and cities. It will also offer Amazon, as it did with eBay, a legitimate opportunity to see how retailing could look in the future and a way to assess opportunities, perhaps, for its own brand and services in high streets.