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by Kate McMahon

Mishmash (noun): A confused mess; hodgepodge, jumble.

I eagerly headed down to New York’s trendy SoHo neighborhood last week hoping the new Amazon 4-Star Store would yield timely insights into American consumers’ wish list for this holiday season – and also be an entertaining shopping adventure.

Amazon has promised that the innovative 4,000-square foot space would feature products that are top sellers, have a customer rating of four stars and above, or are new and trending on the e-commerce giant’s website.

The official opening announcement put it this way:“Amazon 4-star’s selection is a direct reflection of our customers—what they’re buying and what they’re loving.” And so, I was anticipating a curated, hip “shopping cart” in real time in a brick-and-mortar store.

Alas, I instead found the retail definition of a mishmash and a corporate full-court press promoting Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant, Alexa.

The first display greeting customers trumpeted Amazon’s Most-Wished-For items, which included a Levoit Air Purifier ($89.99), the spy board game Codenames ($14.89), an Echo Dot ($29.99), the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” ($14.99) and a Lego Ideas Ship in a Bottle set for adults ($69.99).

Most Wished-For? Really? I was decidedly underwhelmed by the odd assortment of items haphazardly arranged on the table. I was also overwhelmed by the sheer number of Alexa-enabled or activated devices at every turn: the Echo, the Dot, the Spot, the Show, the iRobot room cleaner, the FireTV stick, and the Smart Home Monitoring system.

Undeterred, I then made my move toward the Trending Around NYC section, since Amazon vowed to spotlight what savvy New Yorkers wanted, compared to the denizens of Berkeley, CA and suburban Denver, home to the two other Amazon 4-Star Stores that opened this fall.

Another head-scratcher. The trending items were a 19-ounce tub of CeraVe moisturizing cream ($15.06), a Lego 24-gift advent calendar ($29.99), a First Alert smoke and carbon monoxide alarm ($44.97), a Revlon hair dryer ($49.99) and the book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup ($12.81).

Again - really?

As a consumer, I wouldn’t bother to take the subway to Spring Street to return to the store in its current incarnation. It combines the minimal décor of a pop-up store (although Amazon has said it is permanent) and the charm of a Costco. The harried staff was friendly but too busy to answer queries.

However, as columnist who follows retail, I am intrigued to see what is next for the 4-Star stores and their future role in the Amazon ecosystem. Amazon’s physical retail footprint now includes Amazon Books bookstores, Amazon Go convenience stores, Amazon PopUp kiosks in malls, AmazonFresh Pickup location, and of course, the 460 Whole Foods supermarkets across the country.

The 4-Star stores do offer two distinct advantages for Amazon. The first in the opportunity for consumers to try Amazon-brand electronics in person and to constantly promote the omnipresent Alexa. The second is to plug Amazon’s Prime membership service through fluctuating digital price tags alongside each product which show the Prime price and the list price.Non-prime members can sign up for a free 30-day trial and receive the price right away.

I think it’s safe bet Amazon will learn critical lessons from this launch, and the next generation of 4-Star Stores will not earn the mishmash soubriquet. But this one? I give it two stars.

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