Amazon’s deals on wheels roll across the country | Crain's Seattle

Amazon’s deals on wheels roll across the country

Amazon customers can receive a text message highlighting the deal of the day when the Treasure Truck is nearby. | Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Even in an era of one-hour deliveries and drone-drop shopping, some deals warrant putting down the remote, hopping off the couch and leaving the house. At least, that’s the thought behind Amazon Inc.’s Treasure Truck, the Seattle-based rolling pop-up shop concept.

It began about a year ago when, solely within Seattle’s city limits, the rolling retailer offered a 64 percent discount on GoPro Hero4 equipment. The concept has been continually expanding. There are currently Treasure Trucks cruising the streets in 18 cities (Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, and Tampa).

Amazon customers and app users receive a text message highlighting the deal of the day when the Treasure Truck is nearby. Products are a hodgepodge of everything from must-have, hard-to-find electronics like Super Nintendo Classic game consoles to copies of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” People who choose to buy the featured items from their smartphones can pick them up at the truck, which serves as a mobile pop-up shop.

“It’s a pretty cool idea,” says Kate O’Brien, an avid online shopping enthusiast in the Fremont neighborhood. “My kids love the hoopla of the truck, but I’m sure I’m like everyone else and appreciate the convenience and the deals.”

Creating a buzz

While customers might appreciate saving time and money, retail analysts have said they believe Amazon’s aim is to secure even more data on how people make online purchases and pick them up at a store. Analysts have said the Treasure Truck endeavor is not intended to make money, and have described the rolling pop-up as everything from an elaborate PR stunt to an over-the-top method to unload overstocked items.

Amazon has been aggressively growing its physical presence in the past few years. In addition to the Treasure Truck, the e-commerce company’s retail presence now spans hundreds of Whole Foods stores to its own grocery pick-up spots, and more than 40 tiny pop-up stores situated in the middle of shopping malls.

“We are always looking for ways to innovate on behalf of customers,” says Catie Kroon, an Amazon spokesperson. “Treasure Truck is just one of many new ways we’re enabling customers to shop, and we think they’ll really enjoy it. It’s a fun, interactive experience that provides access to must-have products, many of which they can’t find elsewhere or are only available in the limited quantity.”

Community involvement

Not only does the Amazon Treasure Truck concept make it easy for people to purchase these daily deals, Kroon says it also makes it simple for the community to get involved in other ways. Amazon encourages locations that have an outdoor parking lot to let the Treasure Truck park there for customer pick-ups. They also invite anyone who has a product to contact them about selling on the Treasure Truck.

Says Kroon: “Whatever the product may be, we’ve hand-picked items we think customers will love. We will continue working hard to surprise and delight customers with our Treasure Truck selections.”

Areas of weakness

But a Moody’s report written last month by Charles O’Shea, Janice Hofferber, and Oliver Alcantara maintains that despite all of its innovative forays into brick-and-mortar, Amazon is lagging in a few critical areas.

“Although Amazon’s share price is outperforming retailers, conventional methods of evaluating operating performance, such as operating margin or any profitability measure, suggest that Amazon is actually the weakest of the large retailers, excluding sales growth,” they write.

The Moody’s report continues: “And even based on that measure, one could argue that Amazon has been ‘buying’ sales for the past 15 years, considering profits have not been its primary focus – unlike other retailers. In terms of total revenues, Amazon continues to grow product sales in the mid-teens, which we note is lower than many brick & mortar retailers’ online growth. But again, that growth is nowhere near the retailers’ overall profit levels.”

October 15, 2017 - 12:47pm