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New Amazon 4-star store makes high ratings a selling point

The 4,000-square-foot store is Amazon's latest attempt at physical retail.

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Even this sign got 4 stars.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon on Thursday swung open the doors to its latest store concept, called Amazon 4-star. It's only one store in Manhattan, but judging by the commotion on day one, people were certainly interested.

The premise for the 4,000-square-foot store is pretty simple: All the roughly 2,000 products stocking the shelves are rated four stars or higher, are top sellers, or are new and trending on Amazon's website.

The store seems half bookstore and half Kmart, with a busy mix of electronics, toys, baby products, books and small kitchen appliances. There's also a healthy dose throughout of Amazon's own devices, including Fire tablets, Echo speakers and Ring smart-home gadgets. The place feels much like an Amazon Books bookstore, but with a broader assortment of stuff.

Now playing: Watch this: Checking out the new Amazon 4-star store in New York
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Amazon is experimenting a lot with physical store concepts, and 4-star is just its latest idea. The company has also opened Amazon Books bookstores, Amazon Go convenience stores, Amazon Pop-Up kiosks at malls, Amazon college pickup and return centers, and AmazonFresh Pickup grocery locations. The e-commerce heavyweight also bought Whole Foods last year and now operates its 460 supermarkets.

Why is the world's largest online seller testing out all these store ideas? It probably wants to figure out how to get you to shop in its physical stores -- along with its online site -- so it can bring in even more customers. Today, only about 10 percent of retail sales happen online, so moving to physical stores could offer a huge benefit for Amazon in the long run. Also, storefronts like 4-star can help Amazon show off its own electronics so people can test them out before buying them -- something you can't do in a website.

Right when you walk into 4-star is a table with "Most Wished-For" items, including the book The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck, a Nintendo Switch controller and a Harry Potter Lego set. Along a wall nearby are Quirky Kitchen Gifts, like blue whale-shaped pot strainer, hedgehog-shaped cheese grater and monkey-shaped peeler. There are tables for top-selling items and trending items in New York, including a yoga mat, dust buster and Bob Woodward's new book about Donald Trump's presidency, Fear. Plenty of stuff will get rotated in and out, depending on how it's selling online and in the store.

In front of many items are reviews pulled right from Amazon's website (similar to Amazon Books). The digital price tags change to keep up with the fluctuating prices on Amazon, and they often include both a listed price and a cheaper price for Prime members (that Prime benefit is also available at Amazon Books, too).

Right by the entrance there's even a shelf holding $20 Amazon 4-star-branded water bottles. Unfortunately, since this was likely the first day they were on sale, they had no reviews and therefore zero stars.

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