Amazon.com Inc. is teaming up with office supply chain Staples Inc. to sell the Amazon Echo — a voice-activated speaker that can play music, dim lights and answer questions — hinting that the online retailer is having trouble moving the device on its own.
The Echo, introduced in November, will be sold for $179.99 on Staples.com, with Staples serving as the exclusive third-party retailer, the companies announced Monday.
The device will be available only on Staples.com and won’t be showcased for customers in any of the retailer’s stores. Staples had 1,364 U.S. stores at the end of 2014.
“I am not sure what they hope to accomplish,” said Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. “It really makes no sense to me without a retail presence.”
Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has been spending on gadgets to tie consumers more closely to the e-commerce company. New hardware offerings last year included a media-streaming device, the Fire TV Stick, which plugs into a TV set to let users browse video and music from Amazon, Netflix Inc., Pandora Media Inc. and other content services.
This year, the company introduced the Amazon Dash Button, which enables people to order laundry detergent by pushing a single-purpose button attached to the washing machine.
Some of the company’s hardware offerings have flopped. Last year, it reported a third-quarter $170 million inventory charge related to excess supplies of Amazon’s Fire smartphone.
Poor Fire smartphone sales highlighted a weakness — that the online retailer has no stores where shoppers can try gadgets before buying them.
Brittany Turner, an Amazon spokeswoman, said the partnership with Staples is similar to other agreements with retailers including Best Buy Co. and Toys R Us Inc. that sell Amazon Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets.
“Our goal is to make our devices available wherever customers want to buy them,” she said.
The partnership comes three months after Amazon started its Amazon Business marketplace, which rivals Staples for business spending on office supplies.
Amazon doesn’t release sales figures for the Echo. The company said it sold 4,000 of the devices on Amazon Prime Day, a July promotion that coincided with the company’s 20th anniversary.