A year after The Wall Street Journal reported Amazon had an interest in using empty mall spaces as fulfillment centers, the business paper is back with a rumor that Amazon is planning to open department store-style locations of its own. The reported plan is for stores that are smaller than your average 100,000-square-foot Macy’s or JC Penney location, with a footprint that’s only about 30,000 square feet, which is closer to the size of Kohl’s stores that already handle Amazon returns. Without specific information on what they might sell, they could stock clothing, electronics, and household items.
While private equity firms did their part, Amazon is now in the odd position of replacing stores that it helped kill off. If the plans turn into action, the first locations could show up in California and Ohio. In 2019, The Wall Street Journal published this video report on Amazon’s acquisition of empty mall spaces in northeastern Ohio and now says that in the same year, it was asking US apparel brands about opening retail stores to show off their products.
There’s no word on whether Amazon plans to load up these stores with its cashier-less Just Walk Out technology, but in-person shopping could make it easier to try on clothes or try out new Alexa-connected gadgets. Beyond owning Whole Foods, Amazon has opened grocery stores, bookstores, and its Amazon Go convenience stores in recent years. Now, after Jeff Bezo’s exit from the CEO role, the next chapter in Amazon’s history of changing retail could take place exactly where we all expected it would: as just another anchor tenant at your local mall.