Jan. 29, 2014 at 6:54 PM ET
Amazon may be preparing to step into brick-and-mortar retail stores in a big way, according to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal. The world's biggest e-tailer is reportedly working on providing point-of-sale systems for real-world purchases — all of which, presumably, would show up on your Amazon account.
Details are few and far between, but it would make sense for Amazon, which powers many online businesses and checkout systems, to expand to registers at cafes and gift shops. After all, a huge amount (90 percent, according to the WSJ's estimates) of commerce still takes place offline.
The question seems to be which retailers will actually want a competitor to be running their finances. Amazon has already contributed to the nullification of many large businesses — bookstores being the most prominent example. And customers might be creeped out by their impulse buy of socks showing up on the "recently purchased" section when they next log into Amazon.
Furthermore, entering the retail space isn't easy: From card-swiping hardware to POS machine interface to the nitty gritty of rates, fees and other details, it's a complicated world with a lot of established players. That said, Amazon has the advantage of its huge database of items, an established system for returns and feedback, and other things resulting from more than a decade of dominating the Internet marketplace. And it may even use its own Kindle tablets as the basis for the system, like Square and others have done with the iPad.
We may know as soon as this summer, which is reported as the earliest the system might launch — or we might never find out, as it is also suggested that the project may be cancelled or delayed at any time. Amazon declined to comment when contacted by NBC News.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.