A couple of decades ago, industry analysts predicted that Amazon would kill off the physical bookstore with its ability to deliver books practically anywhere with the click of a button. Since then, the online retailer has expanded into dozens of other businesses, distributing everything from toys to gardening equipment.
There's one area, however, in which Amazon could still reach much farther, and that's its grocery line. Now the company may have discovered a solution — and the answer might mean a return to brick-and-mortar days.
Amazon wants to set up drive-through grocery stores where consumers can pick up goods they've ordered online, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Where this could have the biggest impact is on perishables, which obviously require timely delivery.
Although shoppers can already buy some perishables through Amazon Fresh and get them delivered the same day, the $300 annual membership isn't for everyone. And the logistics of delivering fresh groceries right to people's homes is still a big challenge. Amazon has reportedly explored retail locations before, but doing it just for groceries would be a different thing entirely.
Providing drop points or mini-warehouses where shoppers can pick up their goods could be an effective solution. Even if they had to drive there once a week, they wouldn't need to spend time assembling their purchases as in normal grocery stores. And despite the probably high cost of offering physical locations around the country, Amazon has demonstrated its willingness on many occasions to take a hit if it means getting more (and more valued) subscribers.
Someday, Amazon could figure out how to deliver small batches of groceries by drone. But that day isn't here yet. And until it arrives, it looks as if we could see an e-retail pioneer turn to brick-and-mortar stores as a fix to a problem, not an obstacle to be crushed underfoot.
Amazon — whose CEO, Jeffrey Bezos, owns The Post — didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.