Target Corp.’s freeze-out of Amazon.com Inc.’s products has come to an end.
Four years after Target pulled Amazon Kindle e-readers and tablets from its shelves, the Minneapolis-based retailer has reversed course. The change of heart, analysts say, is a reflection of the fast-changing retail environment and a recognition that it can’t stop the online juggernaut, which already has legions of devoted customers, including many who also shop at Target.
Thursday morning, the company added several Amazon products, including the Kindle, Fire tablets and Fire Sticks, on Target.com. The items will hit the big box chain’s 1,800 stores in October in time for the busy holiday shopping season.
“Target continually evaluates our assortment to deliver quality products at a great value,” Target said in a prepared statement. “We know our guests love the many aspects of shopping at Target, and believe they will appreciate the convenience and savings of finding these items in our stores and on Target.com.”
Amy Koo, an analyst with Kantar Retail, noted there’s a very high penetration of Target customers who are also members of Amazon’s $99-a-year Prime membership program, which enables free two-day shipping and access to Amazon’s streaming content. There are now an estimated 45 million Prime subscribers in the U.S., up from 36 million a year ago, according to analysts at Cowen and Co.
“At this point, it’s too late to hold back the tide,” Koo said. “When they discontinued them, it was ‘Oh my goodness, we need to pay attention to this competitor that is eating our lunch.’ Now it’s about the ease at which shoppers can switch so there is no actual benefit in them not carrying it.”
Now, at least, Target could benefit from selling the Amazon devices, particularly among people who are not Prime members or who don’t live in urban centers where Amazon delivery is especially fast, she said.
The Amazon Kindle first debuted in 2007. Target became the first brick-and-mortar retailer to start carrying it in 2010. The following year, Target said it was the bestselling tablet in its stores on Black Friday.
But in 2012, Target stopped selling the Kindle devices, especially as the newer tablets made it easier and encouraged customers to buy goods from Amazon. Wal-Mart followed suit a couple of months later, though other retailers such as Richfield-based Best Buy and Staples, continued to sell them.
At the time, the danger in selling the devices was that they were seen as a gateway to Amazon’s content and website, said Carol Spieckerman, a retail consultant.
“Now that Prime has become, you could argue, ubiquitous, Amazon has reached a maturity that mitigates that risk,” she said. “Now Target can rationalize that they are carrying a brand and a set of devices instead of enabling the competition.”