(Updated 11.35AM PST Monday, with comment from Amazon)
There's a wonderful Borders bookstore in the middle of London's Oxford Street. Or at least there was. I went there in September and suddenly it was no more. Indeed, the U.K. arm of Borders recently reached for a form of bankruptcy protection.
So how interesting that one of the greatest successes in online book retail, Amazon, is rumored to be troubling real estate agents in its search for retail premises in the U.K. According to London's impeccable Times, Amazon is looking for very fine locations in order to, well, fulfill orders.
Perhaps some might find it a touch amusing that such a dot-com icon has decided to trouble the physical world. However, it appears that the British are suffering from frightful attacks of impatience while waiting for their erudite tomes, wickedly catchy tunes and other more substantial purchases to arrive by ponies that may be less than express.
The Times says that Argos, a U.K. catalog retailer of, oh, useful and useless stuff, has 18 percent of its online orders picked up in store. Indeed, the company believes that 50 percent of its holiday television sales will be transacted in this manner.
Amazon's customer service has become so progressive that its presence in American, as well as British, malls might serve as something of an inspiration to the more complacent establishments.
And now that Amazon seems to be able to sell you everything from woodworking equipment to vacuum cleaners, it surely puts extra pressure on postal services and that nice man in brown who comes to my house and always looks tired.
What a revolutionary concept it would be to go to a store and know that the thing you want is actually there. It just might catch on.
UPDATE: According to Reuters, Amazon denied Monday that it would open physical stores. However, the company would not comment on whether it might instead create partnerships with existing retailers, many of whom, Lord knows, could do with the business.
Some industry insiders told me that any potential steps towards physical retail by Amazon might be a reaction to the EU tinkering with distribution regulations.