A combination of bookstore attrition and its own startup efforts will make Amazon Books the fifth largest general bookstore chain in the U.S. based on the number of outlets. As BookExpo began, Amazon Books had opened seven outlets with confirmed plans to open six more before the end of the year.
Amazon Books’ accession couldn’t have been accomplished without the steady decline in the number of bookstore chains since 1991. In that year, there were 11 chains that had 13 or more outlets, with total outlets topping 3,000. In 2017, the five chains on our list had 1,076 outlets. Just since 2011 the store count has fallen by 32%.
Among the chains that closed between 1991 and 2011 were Borders, Crown Books, Bookland Stores, Encore Books, Lauriat’s, Kroch’s & Brentano’s, and Tower Books. The most recent round of closings featured two Christian chains, Family Christian and Cokesbury, plus Hastings Entertainment, a multimedia chain with books as its largest segment.
Amazon plans to open 13 bookstores by the end of 2017. These stores will represent the second largest addition of outlets between 2011 and 2017, behind only the roughly 30 stores added by Books-A-Million, a total which includes a number of former Borders stores that BAM acquired after Borders closed. A BAM spokesperson said that the chain is still “opportunistically opening stores.” He added, “We are committed to continuing to adapt and be creative as we navigate the ever-changing retail landscape.”
During the 2011–2017 period, industry leader Barnes & Noble had a net reduction of 71 outlets, although its store-closing pace has slowed in recent years. Now with 634 outlets, B&N has opened up several test stores since last fall and will evaluate results from the outlets before deciding what elements it may include in other stores.
Amazon’s plans for its bricks-and-mortar business are murky, but the company has ramped up its store openings since it launched the first one in November 2015. Though Amazon took 10 months between opening its first store in Seattle and its second in San Diego, Calif., the pace of openings and announced openings has quickened. The e-commerce giant opened two outlets in 2016 and four so far in 2017—the most recent being its Columbus Circle location in New York City. It has announced plans for stores in Bellevue, Wash.; Walnut Creek, Calif., San Jose, Calif., Los Angeles; Paramus, N.J.; and for a second in New York City. If all goes according to plan, Amazon will open 10 stores in 2017.
Its aggressive store-opening plans notwithstanding, Amazon has a way to go to jump ahead of third place Half Price Books. The Dallas-based retailer, which sells a mix of used and new titles, has had a net increase of eight stores since 2011. It closed three locations earlier this year, but has plans to open two new outlets (in St. Charles, Mo., and Tyler, Tex.) later in 2017.
Standing between Half Price and Amazon is Book World, the family-owned chain based in Appleton, Wis., that has stores in much of the Upper Midwest.
Leading U.S. General Bookstore Chains, by Outlets
|Barnes & Noble
|Family Christian Stores
|Half Price Books
|Barnes & Noble
|Half Price Books
*Announced or opened
Editor’s note: The chain chart was designed to reflect the general trade bookstores that are competing directly with Amazon Books. Therefore the Christian bookstore chain Lifeway, which has 174 outlets, and Hudson Group, which as 80 outlets mainly in airports, have not been included.