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Photo: Amazon

For a third-straight year, U.K. retailers celebrated Black Friday wildly, and Amazon dived into the spirit, deploying a five-room, 3,000-square-foot pop-up shop in London's Soho square.

Why it matters: Retail start-ups, e-commerce outlets, and brands are increasingly looking to pop-up stores as a means for driving sales and creating brand awareness. PopUp Republic, a services provider for the pop-up industry, estimates that broadly measured, these stores generate $50 billion in sales in the U.S. annually.

Amazon has opened dozens of smaller pop-ups across America this year, aimed at showcasing its hardware products, like the Kindle Fire. But this was the first in Europe, and, according to Alvaro Morilla, an analyst with Kantar Retail, it hints at a new model for how e-commerce companies will test products, learn about consumer tastes, and burnish their brands.

Amazon's London pop-up is not about capturing traditional retail sales at all.

  • Amazon furnished the entire townhouse to look like a family home, with Amazon products strategically placed in rooms where they would be used.
  • "With no checkout point at the store, Amazon was clearly trying to make this about having fun," says Morilla, who argues that Amazon's goal is not to generate in-store sales, but to "create retail theater and hospitality," and encourage shoppers to buy via its increasingly popular smartphone app.
  • "All the staff we spoke to were helpful, and more interested in creating an experience and guided shop over actually 'selling,'" says Morilla.

Why it may be the future of retail:

That Amazon tested this high-concept pop up in the U.K. makes sense, says Morilla, given that in the UK, more than 90% of population has a smartphone, versus just 77% in the U.S.

  • As smartphone penetration rises, and they account for a rising share of e-commerce traffic, on-line retailers will need to market to customers in the physical world to encourage them to make impulse buys on their devices as they go about their day.
  • In China, where mobile shopping is even more popular than in Europe and the U.S., Alibaba is testing a "New Retail" program, where it mimics its online revenue model in the offline world, charging third-party sellers for premium placement of products in pop-up stores and its growing stable of permanent retail spaces.

Go deeper

DOJ seizes 36 U.S. website domains for Iranian government disinformation

Iran's President-Elect Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference at Shahid Beheshti conference hall in Tehran on Monday. Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

American officials seized 36 news website domains linked to Iran's government for spreading disinformation as part of a propaganda campaign, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The action comes at a time of heightened tension between the two countries, with Iran's hardline President-elect Ebrahim Raisi on Monday ruling out negotiating over missiles or meeting with President Biden as the two nations hold talks on returning Tehran to the 2015 nuclear deal.

NYT: Khashoggi's killers had paramilitary training in U.S.

A vigil for journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, following his killing in 2018 in Turkey. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Several Saudis who took part in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi had paramilitary training in the U.S. under a State Department contract a year before his 2018 death, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: While there's no evidence the department knew that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sanctioned Saudi officials to detain, kidnap and torture dissidents in 2017, the approval of such training underscores how "intensely intertwined" the U.S. has become with a nation known for human rights abuses, per the NYT.

U.S. attorney finalist trashes Labor secretary

Rachael Rollins and Marty Walsh. Photos: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images (Rollins); Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images (Walsh)

A finalist for U.S. attorney in Boston is publicly trashing the city's former mayor — Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

Why it matters: Rachael Rollins’ approach is perpetuating scrutiny of a troubled Cabinet secretary and fellow Democrat — and hints at the independence she may exhibit if tapped for top federal prosecutor for the eastern half of Massachusetts.