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Amazon Does Haircuts Now

04/20/2021 | 04:39pm EDT

By Katie Deighton

Amazon.com Inc. opened its first hair salon Tuesday. Located in London's Spitalfields shopping district, Amazon Salon offers hairdressing services dressed up with technology, including augmented-reality hair consultations.

The two-storey, 1,500-square-foot store also includes entertainment streaming on Amazon Fire tablets and a test of a new "point and learn" experience for bricks-and-mortar retail. The technology lets customers point at an item on a shelf to display product information on a screen mounted behind.

Consumers looking to purchase items for sale, such as hair conditioner, must scan the QR codes displayed on the shelf to order them for home delivery on Amazon's U.K. website.

Amazon in a statement said the space was designed as an experiential venue where it will showcase new products and technology. The company hopes to offer customers a new experience that will also benefit the wider salon industry, an Amazon spokeswoman said when asked about the site's broader business purpose.

Amazon made its name and money in e-commerce, digital subscriptions and other web services, but has in recent years entered physical retail in ways small and large. After opening kiosks in shopping malls to sell devices and Amazon-branded accessories and apparel, the company opened its first bookstore in Seattle in 2015. In 2017 it bought upmarket grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and went on to open a number of stores to showcase its cashierless Just Walk Out technology, including Go and Go Grocery. It also operates stores that only sell goods with four-star-and-above ratings on its e-commerce marketplace

The opening of Amazon Salon reiterates the company's interest in retail and may reflect its ambitions in markets that combine both goods and services, said Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at marketing and communications company Publicis Groupe SA. The technology giant already operates Amazon Home Services, which allows customers in some cities to hire external contractors for odd jobs such as furniture assembly.

But service-heavy businesses don't tend to scale as well as those in the technology sector, given their reliance on labor, Mr. Goldberg added.

"So my immediate knee-jerk reaction is that the professional services aspect is kind of a necessary evil for them, and that they're doing this to establish some credibility and a foothold" in the professional beauty space, he said. "But Amazon has surprised us before, and I certainly wouldn't take it to the bank that they don't have aspirations to make money on this."

The salon's opening follows the introduction of a professional beauty section on Amazon's U.K. website, which offers local hair and beauty businesses supplies for spas and salons. Amazon Salon services will be provided by Elena Lavagni, owner of Neville Hair & Beauty, an independent salon based in London.

John Boumphrey, Amazon's U.K. country manager, said in a statement that Amazon wants the new space to be a place "where we can collaborate with the industry and test new technologies."

The salon may also be designed as a showroom for such innovations: The company began licensing its Just Walk Out technology to other retailers after proving it worked in its own stores, and could do the same with innovations such as the point and learn experience, Mr. Goldberg said.

Amazon Salon is currently open to Amazon employees only. The general public will be able to sign up for appointments in the coming weeks, the company said, adding that it has no current plans to open further salon locations.

Write to Katie Deighton at katie.deighton@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-20-21 1839ET

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