It seems that Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN ) is trying to become something it's currently not -- a brick-and-mortar retailer. The e-retailer is rumored to be opening a store in Seattle within the next few months. According to reports by the blog Good Ereader, Amazon's store would sell high-margin items including e-readers, its Kindle Fire tablet, and Amazon-published books. As the Web's largest retailer, this could be the company's worst decision to date.
If the news is true, the Seattle store would go against everything that's made Amazon.com a success: limited overhead costs, minimal employee salaries, and the absence of sales tax. Amazon's made a name for itself by driving shoppers online and out of traditional retail stores. Big box stores like Target (NYSE: TGT ) are under increasing pressure to compete with Amazon's prices.
Target recently reached out to suppliers for help protecting its stores against "showrooming" -- a trend that has customers viewing products in stores like Target and then buying them elsewhere. To avoid this type of blatant comparison-shopping I think a better plan for Amazon would be to open small-format stores within retailers such as Target.
This is a strategy that's already working well for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) . The Mac maker's success with smaller format stores inside Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) locations led to a more recent partnership between Apple and Target. The tech-titan plans to open 25 Apple mini-stores within select Target locations. From a business standpoint, this strategy could help Amazon test a physical presence within various markets without a significant investment.
I'm a regular shopper on Amazon.com and a loyal shareholder. However, I can't get behind the company throwing cash into a chain of retail stores. Its latest earnings report left investors concerned over management's spending habits -- and for good reason, considering Amazon spent almost as much money as it earned for its fourth quarter. Throw physical storefronts into the mix and it could be a recipe for disaster.
Of course, I could be wrong. Before 2001, the idea that Apple would operate its own outlets was unthinkable. Today, Apple's store tops the chart for highest retail sales per square foot, with $5,626. Can Amazon succeed as a brick-and-mortar? I want to hear from you. Share your thoughts with the Fool community in the comments below.