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Rumour: Amazon to open retail stores in UK

According to the grapevine, the online-shopping giant is looking to open physical retail stores in the UK, which could put a large bluebottle in Argos' ointment

Rumours have surfaced that Amazon is looking to open physical retail stores in the UK, not long after the Borders chain of bookstores went into administration.

The rumours emerged yesterday in The Sunday Times. According to the paper, Amazon has 'launched a secret search for brick-and-mortar stores to support its rapidly growing Web site'. The intent behind such a venture seems clear enough: you could order online and collect at the store a few hours later.

This is something that Argos is undoubtedly having heated board meetings about as you read this. According to the The Sunday Times, 18 per cent of Argos' sales are made on its Web site but collected from a store.

In recent years, Amazon has expanded from its core book-selling business to offer electrical products, clothes and shoes, sports gear and even kitchen appliances. The problem we see, however, is that many of these products are actually sold by third-party retailers who simply sell through Amazon's site and give it a cut of the revenue generated.

There are a number of ways the company could make its retail stores really stand out. For example, it could enable in-store browsing and downloading of MP3s from its Amazon MP3 store, or provide opportunities to actually try out the Kindle ebook reader before purchase. And let's not forget the convenience of having somewhere local to return faulty or damaged goods, negating one of the big pains in the backside experienced by online shoppers.

We contacted Amazon.co.uk for comment, but it hadn't responded at the time of publication.

If Amazon did open retail stores in the UK, would you favour them over Argos outlets, for example? What could Amazon do, in your eyes, to make this sort of offering really compelling? Let us know in the comments section below.