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Amazon's retail future could include Southwest Florida

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Posted at 2:18 AM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 07:30:55-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Amazon reportedly wants to take its operation from clicks back to bricks, and depending on how it plans to proceed, Southwest Florida's economy could be impacted.

Sources say the e-commerce giant, known for disrupting traditional retailing, is planning to open several large stores in the United States.

Amazon has already tested the waters with a Florida brick-and-mortar shop; Amazon 4-Star opened in Palm Beach Gardens last September. Their bigger plan is to open a chain of locations similar in format to traditional department stores.

Industry sources say the company is doing this in part to improve its performance in the sales of household items, clothing, and electronics. It would also make yet another place for Amazon customers to make easy online purchase pick-ups and returns.

Some of the first Amazon department stores are reportedly going to be located in Ohio and California.

As early as 2018, business journals across the nation speculated that Amazon would make a move in the department store world, including an outright purchase of struggling chains such as Sears and JCPenney.

With the company's purchase of Whole Foods in 2017, those rumors swelled. The idea - buy shuttered retail locations and refurbish them to suit Amazon's needs. Depending on market size and presence of existing Whole Foods stores in each market, Amazon would reportedly open either a branch of the healthy lifestyle grocer or an Amazon-branded outlet.

Mall property owners such as Simon have been eager to hop on board with Amazon

Depending on the success of the Ohio and California shops, Amazon may branch out and open more locations, with industry experts expecting stores to open in areas where Amazon has distribution centers.

Cities where distribution centers are still in the works, such as Fort Myers, could be custom-built to adapt to e-commerce delivery as well as retail stocking.

Southwest Florida also has several empty mall anchor stores which were once occupied by Sears, JCPenney and Macy's, in cities of varying size. This could provide the formula Amazon needs to expand its brick-and-mortar concept in the near future.