NEW YORK — Amazon is iterating.
The digital giant’s latest foray into the land of brick-and-mortar — dubbed Amazon 4-star, at 72 Spring Street in the SoHo neighborhood here — is in so many ways classic Amazon.
It’s functional and pragmatic with simple table and wall displays. It is also heavy on kitchen utensils, gifts, gadgets and the Amazon Basics house brand. Everything in the store is either new or has received at least four stars from shoppers online, making it democratic, sort of, the best of the best of kitsch.
The store is something of a mishmash of diversions and time-savers — from Legos to robot vacuum cleaners to all the Harry Potter Books — laying bare the psyche of the American shopper, as read by Amazon.
It’s a test, Amazon style, of whether it is possible to have a store that features only hot items.
But it does not yet feel like a fully realized concept.
There are no fashion or beauty products at the location, which opened Thursday, but Amazon has been careful not to rule it out, saying instead that it is simply starting with other categories.
With all Amazon’s available data and technology, the store also only makes a passing approach at a personal touch, with a couple of small areas devoted to items that are popular in New York specifically and not just on Amazon overall.
The store seems to want to be cool, featuring, for instance, a tote bag with an Andy Warhol print of a Campbell’s Soup can, and positioned right across the street from the buzzy Allbirds.
If 4-star only gets part way to hip, it’s only part of the picture at Amazon. The company has already ventured out into the retail world, launching Amazon Books stores, buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion last year, and introducing its high-tech cashierless concept Amazon Go this year.
The e-commerce giant doesn’t so much have a strategy as a method. It tests, evaluates, tweaks, tests again and if something seems like a big idea, it plows ahead, as was the case with the voice assistant Alexa, which has caught fire and now touches everything from the stereo to the light socket to the microwave.
The 4-star store shows signs that the Amazon retail approach is evolving. Instead of the paper price displays that the other Amazon stores use, the SoHo location has digital displays that update automatically, changing as prices on the site shift throughout the day. (Just like at the Amazon Books stores, members of the company’s Prime program pay one price while nonmembers pay an item’s list price).
Above all else, the store illustrates that Amazon’s retail push is continuing — and in several different directions at once. Amazon is still searching for a better delivery system. And while it might not have found it yet, it shows no signs of letting up.