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Amazon directs shoppers to Borders

Books, CDs and DVDs bought at can now be picked up at local Borders stores, thanks to an extended agreement between the two retailers.

Books, CDs and DVDs bought at can now be picked up at local Borders stores, thanks to an extended agreement between the two retailers.

In an update on "clicks-to-bricks" retail, Amazon is inviting its Internet shoppers to pick up and return items at one of Borders' 400 stores around the United States--a service talked about last year when the two companies first opened a cobranded store online.

The deal adds another layer to Amazon's thickening ties with national retail chains. In recent weeks, the company opened an apparel wing to its online mall in partnership with retailers such as Gap, Eddie Bauer, Foot Locker and Nordstrom. In September, Amazon aligned with Office Depot to sell office products through its online store; it has similar agreements with Target and Circuit City. While many such offline retailers maintain their own sites too, others such as Toys "R" Us and Borders defer directly to Amazon, letting it handle fulfillment and customer service.

The latest agreement further anchors Amazon's virtual identity to the real world.

"This continues Amazon's strategy of blending the real world and online points of sale," said Vernon Keenan, an industry analyst at Keenan Vision, a San Francisco-based market researcher. "Amazon has always viewed themselves more as a complete retailer than an online shop."

For Borders, the arrangement with Amazon ensures that it is serving customers who want to shop online, if not directly. Early on in the Internet's prosperity, Borders sought to compete with Amazon and by opening its own online store, but it became an also-ran in the battle. In April 2001, it relinquished its efforts by signing on with Amazon, much as Toys "R" Us did after it lost a struggle for online toy shoppers to Amazon and to now-defunct eToys. Months later, Amazon relaunched as a co-branded Web site, with the e-tailer handling customer service, fulfillment and inventory.

The two companies' newest program, called "Express In-Store Pick Up at Borders," lets people choose to pick up videos, music or books at a local Borders store upon checkout. Borders records the sale and gives Amazon a commission. Shoppers will pay the price at the local Borders store with applicable state and local sales tax added, but not shipping charges.

"It's a great time for book, music and movie lovers to further benefit from the alliance between Borders Group and Our new In-Store Express Pick Up option will be especially popular with last-minute holiday shoppers," Tami Heim, president of Borders stores and Borders online, said in a statement.