Amazon to open 4-star concept store in West Berkeley

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George Kiskaddon/Courtesy

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Amazon is opening a four-star concept store at 1785 Fourth St., selling products that have received at least four out of five star customer ratings, are new and trending or are top sellers on the Amazon website.

Amazon opened the first four-star store in New York City on Sept. 27, and Berkeley’s Amazon four-star location will be the second store of its kind. The store, which is moving into the location where Crate and Barrel used to be, will sell products ranging from kitchenware to toys.

The concept store is one of the ways Amazon is expanding into offline retail, with its purchase of Whole Foods and other storefronts including Amazon Go and Amazon Books. The store’s opening day is not yet known, and Amazon could not be reached for comment as of press time.

This is not the first Amazon storefront to open in Berkeley — UC Berkeley was the fifth campus in the country where Amazon opened a campus pickup store in 2016. Campus junior Senuri Hewageegana said “it is insane” how much she uses the Amazon pickup location and said she will definitely visit the Fourth Street store.

At the four-star store, customers with prime memberships pay the same discounted prime prices as on the website while those who are not members can sign up in the store for a free 30-day trial. It has traditional checkout stands with cashiers, unlike the Amazon Go convenience stores, and is cashless. Amazon uses customer ratings, reviews and sales data to curate store content, and the store has sections with “Most Wished-For” and “Frequently Bought Together” products.

“It’s great because I shop a lot from Amazon,” said Arash Malek, a passer-by on Fourth Street. “I always want to find the top best-seller. … I’m stoked.”

Malek added, however, that the store promotes what he referred to as Amazon’s “bubble feature,” where Amazon analyzes data and only sells what customers are most likely to want, in this way producing a “bubble.”

Some employees at neighboring businesses on Fourth Street expressed skepticism over the new Amazon store.

It’s Amazon. It’s very corporate, very uninteresting and bland,” said George Kiskaddon, co-owner of Builders Booksource on Fourth Street. Kiskaddon likened the new Amazon store to when the Apple store on Fourth Street opened, which initially brought more customers to the area but did not greatly affect his business in the long run.

Li Nguyen, an employee at 4th Street Bagel, located next door to the storefront, said many customers ask her who is opening up next door and are not pleased to find out it is Amazon — they tell her that they miss Crate and Barrel, she said.

Amazon is a big company, but actually Fourth Street is a lot of family businesses, and they don’t like Amazon,” Nguyen said.

Contact Katherine Kemp at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @katherinekemp.