Investment writer Robin Lewis threw down the gauntlet today to Eddie Lampert, CEO of Sears, suggesting that Eddie should take Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ call. The proposal would allow Amazon to answer their omni-channel conundrum by acquiring retail titan Sears Holdings, thereby instantly establishing a retail presence and expanding the distribution network of the online retailer.
When I was at Barnes & Noble.com in early 1999, there were rumors that Amazon would buy out Barnes & Noble. At the time, the majority of Amazon’s business was still in traditional books. In retrospect, this would have been a limited move. However, the prospect of Amazon acquiring Sears, or a similar retail giant, should be concerning for traditional retailers like Walmart, who have historically competed with Sears. I’m sure a large percentage of shoppers at Target, Sears, and Walmart also utilize Amazon online. What will happen when Amazon also has an offline retail presence?
An Omni-Channel Amazon
At Centric Digital, Amazon is a familiar example of best practices in many areas of our digital benchmark analysis of traditional companies. If Amazon applied the sophistication of their digital experience to a physical presence, they would be a lethal disruptor to the retail industry. We have seen a trend in the last year that many “online retailers” are establishing brick & mortar stores to create a stronger omni-channel presence and help bring their brand culture to life. Warby Parker, Piperlime and Bonobos are some of the brands engaging with shoppers across virtual and physical touchpoints.
Whether or not the proposal happens with Sears, there is a high likelihood that Jeff Bezos will make this offline move for Amazon soon, and the majority of traditional companies will not be prepared. Traditional retailers will need to accelerate their digital strategy immediately. Most don’t even have a responsive website or leading mobile app yet.