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Amazon retail stores: A reversal of strategy?

February 4, 2015

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Amazon transformed the book world, and then the retail world, by taking what was in brick and mortar stores and selling it online. But now, Amazon might be pulling a strategy reversal.

On Tuesday, Amazon and Purdue University announced the opening of the Purdue Student Store, where students can buy textbooks and other school supplies. Amazon is also its first “staffed customer order pickup and deliver locations” on the Purdue campus.

The news comes after Bloomberg reported Monday that Amazon was in talks to acquire some of Radio Shack’s retail locations after the electronics chain files for bankruptcy protection.

It’s a far cry from Amazon’s dream of using drones to drop off packages, and it isn’t bike delivery, either, but it might be more practical.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon “has considered using the RadioShack stores as showcases for the Seattle-based company’s hardware, as well as potential pickup and drop-off centers for online customers.” Bloomberg did not identify its sources.

There are 4,000 Radio Shack stores, scattered in every part of the United States. The company is in discussions with various parties to sell a portion of the stores, and close the rest. Sprint might buy 1,300 to 2,000 of the locations, Bloomberg says.

It’s always possible a buyer could come forward and snap up Radio Shack, along with its real estate. Interestingly, Radio Shack’s origins were as a mail order retailer for amateur radio operations. It burst into brick and mortar in a big way in the 1980s, when tech took off.

If Amazon did go brick and mortar in a big way, it raises all kinds of potential. The online giant could use stores to

  • Demonstrate Kindles
  • Let you pick up groceries
  • As at Purdue, provide the option of collecting goods rather than having them shipped — which could allow Amazon to delve even more into the perishables market
  • Put on fashion shows for the growing number of designers who are using Amazon to sell their wares

Pretty much every town of any size has a Radio Shack, so this is a story that will be of interest as the negotiations go forward.


The Purdue Student Store

Radio Shack’s website


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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