Unlike Jack the Doorman, the pencil-thin mustachioed nemesis of my youth, Hub by Amazon won’t tell you to stop playing catch in your apartment building’s courtyard. But it will accept, store and manage packages — not only from the ubiquitous Seattle-based retailer but also from the likes of Walmart, Lands’ End and Book of the Month Club (yes, it still exists).
“Amazon.com is taking over the package rooms of some of the country’s largest apartment landlords, in a move that could help consolidate its control over how goods make it from the warehouse floor to the front door,” reportsThe Wall Street Journal’s Laura Kusisto with help from Laura Stevens.
“Amazon has signed contracts with apartment owners and managers representing more than 850,000 units across the U.S. to begin installing Amazon locker systems in their buildings, according to the landlords. Amazon has commitments to install the lockers in thousands of properties, many before the peak holiday shopping season, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
Following up on Kustito’s piece, Bloomberg’s Spencer Soper and Oshrat Carmiel observe that “the lockers are designed to prevent lobbies and mail rooms in multifamily housing units from getting overrun with packages. The units also secure packages so residents can get their items after hours when an apartment’s management office may be closed. Such lockers are becoming must-have amenities in apartment complexes as tenants shift more spending online and lack a convenient way to receive their purchases.”
Soper and Carmiel’s story also has a picture of Amazon lockers on the University of California, Berkeley campus. They write: “The ‘hub’ service differs from Amazon Lockers, which are in public spaces such as 7-Eleven convenience stores and handle only Amazon packages. The lockers for apartments will be accessible only to residents.”
The hed over Alison Griswold’s folo for Quartz reads: “Amazon is now literally building its way into people’s lives.” She writes: “Online retailer Amazon wormed its way into the lives of Americans with books, then with e-books, then with Kindle, then with loads of stuff besides books, then with ‘free’ shipping at Prime, then with personal assistant Alexa. Now the e-commerce giant is coming directly into your home, not by drone, but physically, by partnering with some of the nation’s largest apartment landlords.”
They fully intend to come by drone, too, of course. Although Prime Air is “not quite ready for primetime quite yet, every month it inches closer toward launch,” Digital Trends’s Ed Oswald wrote in May in a history of the project.
Meanwhile, other companies have also gotten into the business of building lockers but Amazon does it for about half the price and has attracted the attention of some of the largest residential property managers in the country, the WSJ’s Kustito tells us.
“Walmart’s online shopping platform Jet.com is teaming up with real estate startup Latch to make it easier for tenants in non-doorman buildings to accept packages ordered online via a keyless entry system free of charge in lobbies,” Christopher Cameron points out for The Real Deal.
Like you and me, “It seems like I wake up every day to a new headline of Amazon entering a new market that causes a panic attack for investors in the incumbent companies. In just the last two weeks, Amazon is …,” writes “Detroit Bear” on Seeking Alpha, before listing five other recent developments before the WSJ’s story broke yesterday. And Detroit Bear doesn’t even mention its ambitious new program to entice teen shoppers.)
But DB still sees light for the little guys and gals, focusing on how RXBAR went from selling all-natural protein bars to Crossfit gyms in Chicago to a company worth $600 million to Kellogg. Bonobos and Allbirds have also thrived by creating products that people want and “[building] brands that conveyed values consistent with their target markets.”
Looking ahead, “in brand sensitive markets, I do not expect Amazon to make significant inroads. They lack the authenticity of smaller companies, and I think brand building in the 21st century has less to do with resources than it does with authentic value alignment.”
The conclusion that Detroit Bear reaches is, “I'm long Amazon but for distribution and logistics — not brand building.”
Hub by Amazon is all about distribution and logistics. And someday soon, an AI-powered upgrade will probably be able to shout, “Get out of my courtyard, kid.”