Store Fixtures: How Amazon is Reshaping the Retail Landscape

The type, nature of, and demand for store fixtures is changing rapidly as a result of Amazon’s success in reshaping the landscape of the retail industry. The depth of Amazon’s impact on the retail industry varies by sector. For example, despite its entry into the grocery delivery business, Amazon has only gained 1% market share of the U.S. grocery industry, whereas in industries like publishing, consumer electronics, and easy-to-ship consumable products, Amazon has made a huge dent and has caused massive disruption.
At the end of 2015, the Wall Street Journal ran a column entitled, “Predictions: What to Expect in 2016.” The article featured 17 prominent experts who presented their view on the most significant developments they anticipated for 2016. The ideas presented were big: how technology will transform the financial services industry, advances in behavioral genetics, the fall of the Islamic State, and so on. Surprisingly, on the list of 17 major predictions was the following: The Return of Bookstores.

BN-LX608 store fixtures

The author of the prediction was Ann Patchett who argued that, despite the popularity of Amazon and e-readers, in 2016 customers would return to supporting their community book stores. The fact that this prediction was even mentioned on the same level as The Fall of the Islamic State says something about the importance and credibility of this major cultural shift. To support her prediction, Patchett argued that people are growing tired of pointing and clicking and dealing with computer screens in general. What’s been missing, she asserted, are stores that sell good books, have a staff of smart readers, a thriving children’s section, and maybe a couple of shop dogs.

What Patchett was getting at was really about changing the game by creating an experience that Amazon could not reproduce without a physical store. This insight has not been lost on Amazon, for as we all know, the company has begun to open its own physical bookstores. However, despite the promise of a staff of smart readers and shop dogs to save the day, there is one segment of the bookstore market that is about to experience a fairly radical transformation in order to survive: college bookstores.

A recent New Times article entitled “As Amazon Arrives, the Campus Bookstore is a Books Store No More” describes the way in which college bookstores are surrendering the textbook and study materials business to Amazon. Stony Brook University, Queens College, Purdue University, and University of Massachusetts no longer sell textbooks and instead are partnering with Amazon in the name of offering their students more affordable options and better serving their primary constituents (i.e., they can’t compete with Amazon).

By the end of the year Amazon will have pick-up locations at 17 universities. These universities will have little need going forward for store fixtures to merchandise books. They are repurposing their retail space to sell campus merchandise, but we suspect it won’t be long before campus “bookstores” realize that they will inevitably lose the battle to Amazon on campus merchandise as well. The thing about campus bookstores that is different than independent bookstores is that their clientele is college-aged kids who prefer to do their shopping online.

Bookstore store fixtures

Universities which partner with Amazon receive a 2% revenue share, a fraction of the profit they made in their heyday. Once Amazon establishes a pick-up location on campus, it’s pretty much game over for college bookstores as we know them.

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