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Malls Prove Another Hub in Amazon’s Expanding Logistics Network

The Amazon effect on malls continues to evolve as the company expands on a beta for delivery from shopping centers.

The company has been trialing pickup from malls using its gig-based Amazon Flex delivery arm at properties in Chandler Ariz. and Tysons Corner, Va., according to a Bloomberg report. Amazon has also been testing the service in Las Vegas since last year at the Fashion Show Mall, according to a notice to Flex drivers reviewed by Sourcing Journal.

“Amazon Flex is testing a new offer type near you,” the notice to Las Vegas Flex drivers read. “Retail delivery offers will allow you to pick up and deliver pre-packaged orders directly from non-Amazon retail stores in participating local shopping centers.”

The company also appears to be looking to add routes for drivers from the Baybrook Mall in Friendswood, Texas, according to an online discussion group for Flex drivers. Flex workers accept scheduled delivery blocks through an app, typically picking up orders from designated delivery stations within the Amazon network.

Both the Fashion Show and Baybrook malls are owned by real estate developer and property owner Brookfield Properties.

An Amazon spokesperson told several news outlets the Flex service had been delivering from third-party stores “for years” and that delivery from malls was being used by a “handful” of retailers.

The company’s Flex drivers have already been dropping off orders to Amazon Hub Lockers at malls, apartments, Whole Foods Markets and other places. Package pickup from a shopping center would be an expansion of that existing service.

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The mall-based delivery update comes as Amazon opened the doors to its first clothing store Wednesday, located at The Americana at Brand shopping center in Glendale, Calif.

A fitting room in the Amazon Style store.
A fitting room in the Amazon Style store. Courtesy

Amazon’s made it clear in more recent years its ambitions go far beyond simply being a conduit for buying and selling. Notably, its aim on at least one front is to build a logistics behemoth for shippers, facilitating everything from fulfillment to transportation modes.

It’s clear it continues to refine its fulfillment and distribution network, with the company recently confirming the sub-leasing of some of its warehouses as it sits on extra capacity it had inked leases on during the height of online shopping’s Covid-related boom.

Network capacity will be key as demand for the company’s services grows. Amazon said in April it was rolling out a new Buy with Prime program offering Prime members the same program benefits for purchases from retailers outside of the marketplace. The first of those businesses to offer Buy With Prime will be from the company’s Fulfillment by Amazon program before the service is rolled out more broadly.

Amazon Flex’s expanded routes at malls come amid an increasingly competitive environment for gig economy drivers with the growth of logistics platforms promising speedy last mile delivery.

Walmart’s GoLocal last mile service is a business-to-business option launched last year for retailers and other companies looking to offer home delivery to customers. Uber launched its Don’t Eats campaign with a Super Bowl Spot this year to aggressively market the fact that its drivers can deliver everything from food and flowers to lipstick and candles. Meanwhile, DoorDash has continued to expand its non-food delivery offering, adding retailers such as JCPenney and Macy’s.

At the same time, fulfillment from stores—and clearly now malls—has become a logical logistical alternative in some cases to leasing out increasingly hard to find industrial real estate that also positions companies closer to the consumer.

Retail real estate investment firm Centennial has been experimenting with making mall retailer inventory shoppable online and also deliverable to consumers the same day.

The company’s halo property for experimentation has been MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana, Calif. via a shoppable platform called Shop Now that’s accessible from the center’s main home page.

Shop Now was first trialed at MainPlace in October 2020 initially as a tool to browse current inventory. The features were later expanded the following year to include single cart transactions, along with the option for curbside or same-day delivery.

Centennial has since added some component of Shop Now at several of its other malls, including the Dulles Town Center in Virginia, Shops at Willow Bend in Texas and Connecticut Post Mall in Connecticut.