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Online Retailers Branch Out Into The Real World

Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle's University Village last year.
Elaine Johnson
AP Photo
Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle's University Village last year.

Part of the convenience of shopping online is having your spoils delivered to your door, but online retailers are opening more and more physical stores.

Consider the bookstore Amazon opened in Seattle's University Village last year. Now the retail giant is beginning to build drive-up grocery stores where customers can pick up online orders.

Plans for the stores are already underway in California, and GeekWire reported this week that one may be coming to the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle.

Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research analyst who follows online retail, said the physical stores are part of a trend of online retailers branching out into into the real world.

She said most retail still happens in person, so companies like Amazon are trying to experiment with how to do business both ways. The physical stores help them learn more about their customers and might actually cut costs for grocery delivery.

"That I think is the bigger trend here is recognizing that physical real estate doesn't just go away because of e-commerce and online retail," she said.

She pointed out that shopping for groceries online isn't as popular and that some traditional retailers already have pick-up services.

"No one has really figured out a great model that is profitable that can get you your food as easily and as cost-effectively as going to the store yourself," she said. "There's a lot of money at stake if someone can crack the nut here."

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. 

A Seattle native and former knkx intern, Simone Alicea has returned to the Pacific Northwest from covering breaking news at the Chicago Sun-Times. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.
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