Amazon plans on shutting down all 24 of their bookstores in the United States. These bookstores were often found in big cities and filled a niche, with all of the indie bookstores that have closed. They will also be closing two other physical retail concepts: Its “4-star” stores, which sold products that had high customer ratings, and its Pop Up stores. The decision to completely abandon the bookstore concept was very abrupt and came without warning.
The retailer, which began its life as an online bookseller, launched its first physical bookstore in Seattle back in 2015, then steadily expanded its brick-and-mortar footprint to include more locations across the U.S. and abroad, including Arizona, California, Colorado, D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas.
The company said that will alert shoppers to the upcoming closures through in-store signage, as the actual closing dates may vary by location. It also said it was working to find new roles for employees impacted, when possible, or offer them severance.
The decision isn’t a move away from brick-and-mortar stores. The company plans to “focus more on our Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, Amazon Go and Amazon Style stores and our Just Walk Out technology,” Amazon said Wednesday in an emailed statement. “We remain committed to building great, long-term physical retail experiences and technologies, and we’re working closely with our affected employees to help them find new roles within Amazon.”
Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said internet-savvy Amazon was right to forgo the niche market of brick-and-mortar book shoppers, as bad a match as electric car maker Tesla Inc opening gas stations. Pachter said Andy Jassy, Amazon’s new chief executive, likely made this call as he reviewed the retailer’s myriad businesses since taking the top job in July. “Retail is hard, and they’re discovering that,” he said. The company’s vice president of physical retail, Cameron Janes, departed Amazon after 14 years in November, he said in a LinkedIn post. Now chief commercial officer at retailer REI, he did not immediately return a request for comment.
I really liked the Amazon Bookstore concept. The books that were stocked were not by accident. The books that would be available would be based on the local market and this would be determined by Amazons vast data trove and showcase what people were reading, even the reviews they left on Amazon’s website.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.