Amazon’s tangled web: Wal-Mart’s Kindle dumping and more

Could Wal-Mart’s announcement Thursday that it is dumping the Kindle from its shelves a sign of a retailer war against Wal-Mart rival big-box store Target stopped selling the e-readers — some of which had evolved into tablets, on which users could buy way more than books — over the summer.

Wal-Mart’s words about the move were vague: “This decision is consistent with our overall merchandising strategy.” But it’s not hard to figure out why. One word: showrooming. It’s the growing practice of going to a physical store to see and feel and touch a product, then heading over to a virtual store like Amazon to buy it, usually because of lower prices. In hindsight, Wal-Mart and Target probably felt duped. They were selling the competition’s product.

“Wal-Mart and other retailers don’t want to facilitate Amazon in any way,” Brian Walker, Forrester analyst, told the Wall Street Journal.

What about other retailers with which Amazon might compete, will they follow suit? The Seattle company does sell everything from toilet paper to tablets. Although it sells many a Kindle on its own site, it does not have its own brick-and-mortar stores where potential Kindle buyers can touch before they buy.

Electronics chain Best Buy told the WSJ “it is our aim to carry all of the latest technology devices.” And the New York Times mentions Office Depot and Staples as examples of other physical retailers that carry the Amazon Kindle line.

The NYT quoted Fiona Dias, chief strategy officer of ShopRunner, who said, “a lot of these technology companies look like they’re great friends in the beginning, and as they grow and add products, they move from friend to foe.” Examples she cited: Google, which is a mobile-payment partner with retailers but sells some of the same content they sell. And Apple, with its new Passbook payment system, sells music, books, movies and TV shows.

Amazon is contending with other “frenemy” situations beyond the showrooming realm, Wired’s Ryan Tate points out. For example, it is both a book seller and publisher. And its tablets can run Netflix movies and TV shows although it has its own streaming services.



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