Amazon opened the doors to its first East Coast bricks and mortar bookstore on Tuesday. The 5,800 sq. ft. store, in Dedham, Mass., which is the first of the e-tailer's physical stores featuring a cafe, is located at Legacy Place, a large commercial retail center ten miles from downtown Boston. The opening is part of Amazon’s nationwide push to open six physical bookstores by the spring. Once all six bricks and mortar locations are open, Amazon will have a total of nine stores across the country.
Amazon opened its first physical bookstore in 2015. Situated in the company's home state of Washington near the University of Washington campus, the store encouraged something most bricks and mortar booksellers despise: showrooming. (Showrooming is the consumer practice of browsing products in a physical store with the intention of buying them later, online, likely at a cheaper price.)
The three other Amazon bookstores--the company calls its physical locations Amazon Books--currently slated to open on the East include a store in New Jersey, one in New York City, and a third in Lynnfield, Mass. After opening its Seattle store, Amazon opened locations in San Diego and Portland.
Located in a mall complex that once housed a Borders, the Dedham Amazon Books features 5,700 titles as well as a selection of Amazon-branded digital devices. Much of the store is dedicated to children's, young adult, cooking, and travel titles.
Rather than attempt to mirror the company's vast digital catalogue, spokesperson Deborah Bass called the bookstore "a highly curated space." For instance, instead of carrying all 55 titles in the popular Magic Tree House series, the store will stock a handful of titles in the series that the company feels are of particular interest to readers.
Bass said the careful selection process is indicative of the company’s desire to "make sure that these are really great books that are really going to resonate with our customers."
Many aspects of the store reflect the company’s two decades of experience as an online retailer, and mimic what Amazon has done in its other physical stores. Culled from Amazon and Goodreads, customer reviews and ratings are featured as shelf talkers for every book. All titles are faced out. Endcaps and displays feature nontraditional sections like “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime.” Customers who are members of Amazon’s Prime membership service receive the same discounts they already get for online purchases. Books are full price for non-members. The store currently employs 20 booksellers and staff.
As customers navigated the Dedham store on Tuesday, reviews were mixed. A customer named Diane McCafferty, who said she buys all her books online from Amazon, was happy for the chance to browse, but she a bit disappointed by the limited selection. "It’s sort of like buying wine, you’re looking at the labels, asking what is the grading, what is the vintage. You get to see the book covers, but it’s not a place where you’re going to find that one unique wine."
Bass said that Amazon is still new to the business of bricks and mortar bookselling, and that it's relying on customers to share their preferences as it establishes its presence. She pointed to the Dedham store’s café as one of the many parts of the store that resulted from customer feedback. “We want to hear that,” she said, “we encourage them to tell us what they think, and we definitely listen.”