Amazon’s latest foray into brick-and-mortar is the physical manifestation of its Best Seller product rankings. Called “4-Star,” the new store format opened in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood this week, offering walk-in customers the option to browse and buy items that are rated 4 stars or above on Amazon.com.
Here are some observations from Gartner L2’s Amazon Intelligence team, who had the chance to walk the store on opening day:
- The store layout is similar to Amazon’s physical bookstores, with product assortment sorted by category and collections such as what’s trending on Amazon.com. Customer reviews of each product are also featured prominently on shelf signage.
- However, because 4-Star sells a wider range of items across categories ranging from electronics and toys to kitchen wares and stationery, the assortment feels very hodgepodge—neither comprehensive nor selective.
- Well-known brands like Bose and KitchenAid have a strong presence among electronics and kitchen appliances. But considering the wide range of categories in the store, lesser-known brands make up a significant portion of the assortment. Amazon says it will rotate through merchandise every week, making the store better suited to shoppers who are browsing rather than needing something specific.
- Other than a mobile point-of-sale that allows customers to pay with their Amazon app (but not required as credit cards are accepted) there is no sign of Amazon’s newer in-store technology such as cashier-less checkout which is being used in the Amazon Go stores.
Overall, the shopping experience feels very similar to what you would find at any other traditional small-format retailer. It’s questionable how successful the store will be at driving meaningful sales because by design the assortment skews towards items which Amazon already has a strong foothold in online. Regardless, the opening of 4-Star provides further indication of Amazon’s willingness to invest and experiment in brick-and-mortar as the retail giant strives to capture a greater share of overall consumer spending.