BIZ-AMAZON-4STAR-STORE-SE

Jacob Evans, assistant store manager at Amazon's Seattle 4-star store, organizes a display of Alexa products. Amazon is opening its sixth 4-star store in Frisco, Texas this week. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times/TNS)

DALLAS — The first Amazon 4-star in Texas will open at Stonebriar Centre in the Dallas suburb of Frisco with more than 2,000 items displayed in ways that are familiar to Amazon's online shoppers — except they're within four walls and there's a staff ready to help.

This is only the sixth Amazon 4-star store in the U.S., "which is an indication that we really feel embraced by the overall Dallas market," said Drew Sheriff, director of Amazon physical stores.

The concept: Everything in the store is rated four stars or above, is a top seller or is new and trending on Amazon.com.

The company picked Stonebriar, he said, because it's in a "vibrant area" and because of the other tenants in the mall. The popular suburban mall is undergoing a major expansion, with KidZania opening later this month and a Hyatt hotel next year.

Amazon 4-star likely will draw curious shoppers from around Dallas-Fort Worth to see Amazon's interpretation of a physical store, which Amazonians refer to as "offline." While Amazon led a revolution of the retail industry that forced legacy retailers to build expensive online businesses, it's not clear yet whether or how its stores will force change.

"We know there are customers who want to shop offline and benefit from seeing something in person," Sheriff said.

Stores are viewed as an "innovation" inside the bigger Amazon and a way to integrate with the online business, Sheriff said. "There's always so much great innovation, and we feel like we're a big part of it."

Amazon 4-star is ready for the holiday season with gift ideas in various categories. The store is organized by familiar online topics: consumer electronics, kitchen, home, toys, books, games.

It also has interactive displays for the electronic brands Amazon owns: Echo, Fire, Kindle and Ring.

Amazon has borrowed a few other ideas from its online store. Customer reviews are displayed on cards, and digital price tags display both regular prices and discounted prices for Amazon Prime members. The store is giving shoppers who aren't Prime members a free trial.

Customers can check out with their Prime app and have their receipts stored electronically or printed.

Amazon has been growing its advertising revenue online, and the 4-star locations are an opportunity to display ads, too. A large section with a Discover card canopy advertises its cash-back card while displaying holiday top picks that Amazon and Discover selected jointly.

Amazon 4-star also accepts returns of online Amazon purchases.

A signature feature of Amazon 4-star is that local bestsellers captured online are displayed in the store.

At the moment, items trending online in the greater Dallas area are a Black & Decker handheld vacuum, Me by Elton John, a Logitech comfort wave keyboard and an Oral B toothbrush.

There's never any rhyme or reason to the regional hot items, he said, but it's "always fun to try to figure one out."

At a glance: Amazon stores

While Amazon decided to move forward in the grocery business with a store partner when it purchased Austin-based Whole Foods Market in July 2017, it has ventured on its own with general merchandise stores. Earlier this year, Amazon closed 87 consumer electronics kiosks and said it would focus on opening 4-star and Amazon Books locations.

Two more 4-star stores are in the works, at Oak Brook Center near Chicago and the Village at Corte Madera near San Francisco.

* Amazon Books: So far there are 19 stores but only one in Texas, in Austin's Domain Northside. Nashville is getting one soon at the Mall at Green Hills. They look much like a bookstore, but more and more include general merchandise. A signature difference: The books are arranged with the covers facing forward.

* Amazon Go: Only Seattle, Chicago, New York and San Francisco have these cashierless convenience stores. There are 17 open and four more identified as coming soon in Chicago and New York, including at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

* Presented by Amazon: This is the newest store concept for Amazon. It's a themed selection of top brands that are updated frequently. There are only four and all are in malls — in Los Angeles, San Francisco, suburban Chicago (Skokie) and Las Vegas.

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