Amazon steps closer to modern Sears

People walk past an Amazon Books retail store in New York City, U.S., February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK, Aug 19 (Reuters Breakingviews) - (AMZN.O) became a $1.6 trillion behemoth in part by using e-ecommerce to put brick-and-mortar retailers out of business. Jeff Bezos’ company, originally online only, already opened small physical stores, and may now add a department store format, according to the Wall Street Journal.

That’s sadly ironic, with names like J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus going bust in recent years. Yet it underlines how Amazon is, in some ways, a 21st-century Sears, Roebuck & Co. The storied U.S. group – another recent casualty of bankruptcy after years with investor Eddie Lampert in charge – produced the first of its famous mail-order catalogs in 1893, with a first retail store following in 1925. In a foreshadowing of today’s buy-now-pay-later enthusiasm read more , Sears even launched a credit program in 1940.

Amazon can get more from stores by making them multitask as showrooms, instant gratification for customers unwilling to wait for delivery, and mini warehouses helping with challenging last-mile logistics. Still, it’s a reminder that what’s old can be new again. (By Richard Beales)

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Editing by Lauren Silva Laughlin and Marjorie Backman

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