Amazon.com is reportedly planning to open its first physical store, a move that could mark a key strategic shift for a retailer that has been a pioneer of e-commerce.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon will open a brick-and-mortar shop in Midtown Manhattan in time for the holiday shopping season and that it will be a place for customers to return products, make exchanges or pick up their online orders.  The Journal's report says it is possible the outpost will also act as a showroom for flagship Amazon products such as the Kindle or Fire smartphone.

If Amazon opens the site, it would be one of the most vivid examples yet that retailers are intensely focused on building what's known an "omnichannel" strategy, one that relies on both brick-and-mortar and digital presences that are seamlessly integrated.

E-commerce-only retailers have plenty of cost advantages over brick-and-mortar ones, namely that they are able to maintain lower overhead and a smaller labor force. And yet in the past two years, e-commerce darlings such as Bonobos, Rent The Runway, Birchbox and BaubleBar have pushed to hawk their goods and promote their brands in physical shops. These moves, the retailers have said, is an acknowledgement that for all of e-commerce's convenience and power, the physical store may still offer customers a unique and important value proposition.  For some items, it seems, consumers still want to touch them or try them out before committing to a purchase.

When asked by The Washington Post about the report of a forthcoming store in New York, an Amazon spokeswoman said in an e-mail, "We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan."

Sean Whitehouse, an analyst with retail consultancy Kurt Salmon, said a physical site could allow Amazon to build a more personal connection with its shoppers.

"It’s the customer experience they can offer, like an Apple Store," Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse also said such an outpost could have logistical benefits, serving as a convenient place for Amazon to store its inventory for same-day delivery items.

Amazon has previously experimented with various physical formats before. It had a pop-up Kindle shop last year in San Francisco; it has also tested Kindle vending machines in shopping malls and other locations.

Amazon is working on a host of new ways to bring its goods to consumers.  In several large cities, it is testing a grocery delivery service known as Amazon Fresh.  Last holiday season, chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos revealed in a “60 Minutes” segment that the company is trying out drone technology for deliveries. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

It is not clear whether Amazon may seek to open multiple stores, nor how long the New York site the Journal points to could be open.

Amazon's stock was down about 2 percent in afternoon trading.

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