In Retail, Everything Old Is New Again


The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories

Sean | Flickr

Despite the relentless growth of online shopping, real-world retail is never going to vanish. It’s just going to keep mutating in surprising ways. Here are three telltale examples in the news:

  • Amazon, widely believed to be the Grim Reaper for bricks-and-mortar bookstores everywhere, keeps opening its own in-person outlets (Recode). The company just announced plans for number ten, in Bellevue, Washington. Huh? Why? Maybe now that the online giant has so thoroughly defeated its rivals, there’s room to grow again in the physical retail environment — turf that Amazon will now take for itself. Or maybe Jeff Bezos values these stores as showcases for Amazons lines of devices, its Echos, Dots, and Kindles. Either way, an Amazon Store may be coming to a mall near you.
  • Vending machines may be old school tech, but they’re undergoing a digital overhaul today (Alyssa Bereznak in The Ringer). New companies are selling wall-hanging boxes equipped with touchscreen controls that double, when idle, as advertising displays and social-media consoles for purchasers to share their joy on Facebook or Twitter. Sure, sellers save on labor, but there’s also a novelty factor: As Bereznak puts it, “People enjoy buying things from robots.”
  • Proof of that dictum can be found in the continuing experiment that is Eatsa — a startup that sells custom bowls of quinoa salad through a 21st-century update of the Horn & Hardart Automat. Eatsa — which now operates seven restaurants in San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York — is super-progressive in many ways: vegetarian menu, sustainable ingredients, low prices. But Eatsa also puts a wall between you and the people making your food. That’s convenient, but not exactly humanist. One sign that the Eatsa equation might be a little awry: The best innovations don’t require instruction manuals, but The Washington Post felt it would be useful to run an explainer about how the place works.

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