After opening its first bookstore with much fanfare on November 3, 2015, this week Amazon confirmed a report from Reuters that it is closing all of its physical bookstores, as well as its 4-star and pop-up stores, which carry a mix of items, including some books. All told, Amazon will close about 68 stores, including its 24 bookstores.
The first Amazon Books outlet was opened in the University Village shopping mall in Seattle, and the chain continued to grow, with stores popping up in 12 states as well as in Washington, D.C. Numbering 24 outlets, Amazon Books had been one of the largest bookstore chains in the country.
The company said closing dates will vary by location, and that to alert customers, it will post signs in the local stores. Employees will be given the option to work at other nearby Amazon stores, or to receive severance.
In its official statement, Amazon said that it would continue to operate other physical stores, and that it plans to open more stores. “We’ve decided to close our Amazon 4-star, Books, and Pop Up stores, and focus more on our Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, Amazon Go, and Amazon Style stores and our Just Walk Out technology,” the statement read. “We remain committed to building great, long-term physical retail experiences and technologies.”
Although each Amazon Books store has some local touches, the outlets share many of the same characteristics, such as displaying their books face out, carrying digital devices and accessories, and only stocking books that receive high ratings from Amazon reviewers. Most stores, which range from 3,500 to 6,000 sq. ft., carry 5,000 to 6,000 titles, and employ around 20 people.
The opening of its first store and subsequent national rollout gave rise to widespread speculation about what Amazon’s goals and motives were in opening the outlets, as well as a guessing game about where Amazon Books would next appear. Despite rumors that the company planned to open hundreds of bookstores, the chain’s impact on the overall bookstore business has been negligible.
Many industry observers believed Amazon’s goal in opening the stores was to experiment with new shopping technologies, showroom its book and book-related offerings, and examine consumer behavior. Indeed, after the launch of Amazon Books, the company became much more involved in physical retail, highlighted by its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods in 2017.
Amazon has said that physical retail remains an important part of its business, since it gives customers more choice on how to shop with the company. Bricks-and-mortar stores, however, remain a small part of Amazon’s total business, representing less than 4% of its revenue in 2021.