publishing

Will Amazon dominate our high streets with hundreds of new bookstores?

By Kitty Knowles 4 February 2016
Summary

Everyone's talking about Amazon's "plans" for 400 new physical bookstores.

Last November we told you about the launch of Amazon’s first physical bookstore, located in Seattle’s University Village.

“We’ve applied 20 years of online bookselling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping,” Jennifer Cast, Vice President at Amazon Books, said at the time.

At the Seattle store, data is used to decide what publications to stock (taking customer ratings into account), 6,000 books are stocked facing outwards, and each features a plaque with an Amazon.com customer review.

 

Amazon's physical bookstore in Seattle. Pic: Amazon
Amazon's physical bookstore in Seattle. Pic: Amazon

More physical stores?

Yesterday, a new wave of excitement spread across the US after the chief executive of a large shopping mall operator claimed Amazon would be opening hundreds more physical stores.

Sandeep Mathrani, the chief executive of General Growth Properties, told the Wall Street Journal: “You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400.”

If true, Amazon would rival America’s largest retail bookseller Barnes & Noble, which has 640 shops in 50 states. (The ecommerce group has already slashed nearly 7% off the value of the leading chain).

Amazon's physical book store in Seattle. Pic: Amazon
Amazon's physical book store in Seattle. Pic: Amazon

Speculation

Since then it sounds like Amazon have been trying to stomp out rumours of expansion, and newer reports imply that the company has no plan to open a chain of bookstores whatsoever. We’ve contacted Amazon for comment.

Even Mathrani the original source of the rumour, has distanced himself from the drama, telling CNBC that the comment he made about Amazon was not intended to represent the company’s plans.

Publishing experts however, would not be surprised if Amazon were to expand in the physical realm in the future.

“It may take time and will depend on how the shop fares in Seattle,” Philip Jones told The Memo when Amazon’s Seattle store first opened.

“All innovation in high street bookselling is to be welcomed, and it will be fascinating to see how Amazon uses its experience in the highly responsive world of online retail into a physical environment, where there is inevitable friction around shelf-space, stock turn and supply.”

The presence of Amazon Books will however, worry some independent stores.

“One concern would be that in matching online prices Amazon is already indicating that it expects to run the store as a loss-leader and showroom for its website, and that’s a very different approach to bookselling,” said Jones.

“Amazon is already the dominant retailer of books in both the US and UK, and everything that further cements that power would be a worry.”