It appears that Radio Shack is going out of business. Sprint is reportedly buying some of its stores; but more interestingly, according to Bloomberg, Amazon is thinking about buying some of the Radio Shack outlets as well:
Amazon.com Inc., aiming to bolster its brick-and-mortar operations, has discussed acquiring some RadioShack Corp. locations after the electronics chain files for bankruptcy, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
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, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private.
Amazon has operated temporary “pop-up stores” in the past. There was also a report last year that Amazon would be opening a New York retail store, which didn’t happen. Whether the initial report was wrong or the company decided against it in the end is unclear.
Amazon has for a long time been pushing into the “real world” with its lockers, Fresh grocery delivery service and other efforts to close the gap between e-commerce and traditional retail. Opening physical retail stores would likely help the company in multiple ways and further strengthen the Amazon brand, which is already dominant in e-commerce.
Financial analysts would undoubtedly express concern over costs and overhead and their impact on margins. But in the long run the benefits to Amazon would likely outweigh those costs.
Amazon stores could showcase the company’s products and branded hardware, serve as return or pick-up centers and places to see and order select products. Indeed Amazon might be able to create an innovative in-store online-offline experience that showcased the future of retail.
It remains to be seen. Just as the New York store didn’t happen, it’s also possible (likely) the Radio Shack deal will fall through. If it does Google should swoop down and buy those stores. I’ve argued for a number of years that Google would benefit from physical stores for many reasons.
The company could sell hardware, swag, showcase new products and technology and offer help and support to SMBs (Google My Business, AdWords). In fact, it would be even more interesting, than Amazon, if Google would up buying those stores.
Update: Amazon opened its first offline retail location at Purdue University.