This year might end up marking the start of major e-tailers testing the waters with regards to a hybrid infrastructure of online retail outlets and traditional brick n' mortar retail stores. Most notably, Apple has had tremendous success with their 361 physical retail stores and Microsoft has been in the process of expanding their physical reach with 75 new locations since July 2011. Google is in the process of planning their debut retail store in Dublin Ireland where their European headquarters is located and Amazon has plans to open up a test store in Seattle in the next few months. According to an Amazon spokes person,
The primary goal of the test is to determine if a physical retail presence can accelerate sales of Kindle devices and follow-on consumption of digital content at an attractive return on invested capital.
Seattle makes sense because they are required to pay sales tax in any state where they have a physical presence and given that they are headquartered in Seattle, they are already paying sales tax. The concept of a physical retail store can work for a variety of reasons, they can generate sales revenue, increase brand familiarity and serve as customer service centers. It's often difficult to be successful at all three which does raise concerns about return on investment, something that Amazon will be watching closely. Right now it seems that the Amazon stores will be mostly centered around their Kindle products and be primarily sales focused over customer service driven.