Yesterday Amazon opened up another retail location in New York City. But this one, the company’s third in Manhattan, is different than the standard Amazon Books store. It’s called Amazon 4-star, and the name gives away the store’s premise: Amazon 4-star stocks items that have an average customer review rating of four stars and above. There are also sections for new / trending and top sellers, where featured products don’t necessarily have to meet the four-star bar.
The store’s selection will be changed out and refreshed on a frequent basis — in some cases weekly, according to one employee I spoke to — but there are mainstays (like Amazon’s own hardware products) that will obviously be a permanent staple of the store.
In total, Amazon 4-star stocks around 2,000 items on its shelves and tables. All of them have been curated and picked by Amazon — thus cutting out any companies that game the reviews system — and there are few surprises when it comes to the brands you’ll see.
The kitchen section stocks a ton of OXO Good Grips accessories, the Instant Pot, a Takeya cold brew maker, Keurigs, and so on. Plus a ton of AmazonBasics kitchenware, as you’d expect. You’ll see very few random or unknown companies on these shelves and a lot of those you might be familiar with from Wirecutter. Beside some items you’ll find a small card with a quote from an Amazon customer review.
For now, Amazon is focusing on these areas in what it chooses to sell at 4-star:
- Consumer electronics
But there are also many items (like a dog DNA testing kit) that don’t belong to any of those sections and are placed on a more general “gifts” wall. If you’ve ever stressed about what to buy for a two-year-old in your life, Amazon takes out the guesswork with different gift sections based on a baby or toddler’s age. I also noticed a dedicated area for Amazon LaunchPad that includes products from startups, like a gadget meant to help improve your posture.
But it’s very clear that there’s some paid placement involved here. Take, for example, the giant Roomba installation that eats up a fair amount of floor space. You’re telling me iRobot isn’t paying a hefty sum for that exposure?
Unsurprisingly, Amazon’s own devices and Alexa are a huge focus at the store. The Echos and Fire tablets get their own showcase tables. Same for Ring’s doorbells and video cameras. And there’s a small army of third-party speakers from Sonos, Bose, and Ultimate Ears, plus a bunch of Alexa-compatible gadgets like headphones, Philips Hue lights, Echobee thermostats, and Huawei Honor V10 and 7X smartphones. (Those are the only phones sold at the store right now, but I could definitely see Amazon rotating in other Prime Exclusive handsets.) You’re not going to find a better space for trying this stuff out, seeing as they rarely work as well at your local Best Buy or Target.
Not counting Beats headphones, the only Apple-branded product I found in all of 4-star was the Magic Mouse, which was included on the “Top Selling in NYC” display table beside a Black & Decker vacuum, small bottles of Gorilla Glue, copies of the Crazy Rich Asians book, and a kitchen scale.
This randomness can make some parts of 4-star feel a little chaotic. It’s clearly a store designed for casual browsing and impulse purchases, not efficiency. Still, I found it a little weird to see a Jordan Peterson book and the Echo Spot right next to each other on the Most Wished For table.
That said, I’m can definitely appreciate the wall of AmazonBasics cables (Lightning, USB-C, aux, etc.) and power adapters. And yes, you can get your affordable AmazonBasics HDMI cables at 4-star, too. For NYC residents who need a random cable or car adapter last minute, this is a pretty convenient go-to. The challenge will be buying the thing you came in for without getting swept up into buying a bagel slicer or something else like I almost did.
Just like at Amazon Books, Amazon Prime customers pay the Prime price when shopping at 4-star. Non-members must settle for the more expensive list price (or sign up for a free Prime trial if they want the lower one). Prime isn’t the only service that Amazon pushes on shoppers here. As I checked out to pay for my cheapo pair of Panasonic ErgoFit earbuds, the tablet at the payment terminal noted that I was eligible for a free trial of Audible.
To actually pay, you open the Amazon app on your phone and scan a QR code that’s shown throughout the store. This brings up another, unique-to-you QR code that’s linked to your payment info on Amazon. The cashier scans this, and then you’re done.
Amazon 4-star continues the online retail giant’s brick-and-mortar expansion; it joins Amazon Books, Amazon Pop-Up mall kiosks, and the more experimental, cashier-less Amazon Go locations. I’m not sure how often I’ll return to 4-star. But it should be good for what the sign out front says: you can buy something for yourself or someone else with at least some assurance that it’s a wise purchase.