Amazon's Clicks and Bricks

Amazon is ready for the holidays. And as it stands today, the company has been both naughty and nice. It has been naughty to its competitors who are finding it increasingly hard to compete and it has been nice to its consumers who can now shop Amazon through multiple channels.

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Indeed the massive retailer has been busy opening up brick-and-mortar retail locations across the country, giving marketers even more opportunities to sell its Kindle e-readers, tablets and other ubiquitous gadgets. The Amazon Books format sells toys, electronics, gifts and other products. Amazon now sells gadgets in more than 100 Whole Foods Markets. Kohl's has allocated "store-within-a-store" space in 10 of its department stores and there may be more on the way. And Amazon now has small mall-format shops in several regional malls. This is all in addition to its Amazon Go stores which are opening up across the nation.

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What is interesting is that Amazon is increasing its physical presence in a big way amidst a massive shift of consumer spending towards e-commerce. This suggests that brick-and-mortar retail, after a culling of perhaps 20% of existing locations (there are far too many stores), will be alive and well in the future. The most successful stores will offer seamless e-commerce and in-store experiences, with Amazon and Wal-Mart leading the way. There will always be plenty of room for boutique and specialty retailers, and surviving malls will have to be true destination spots rather than bland collections of the same old stores. The economy is performing better than it has in the past decade, and consumer spending has been brisk this year. Indeed there are a number of "zombie retailers" still stumbling about, and these brands will eventually cease to exist. But for the healthier retailers, this should be a very good holiday season.

Discussion: How do you feel about the future of retail? What other brands might emerge to challenge Amazon and Wal-Mart?