Amazon Closing Bookstores, Other Shops, in Shift to Groceries and Fashion

From a Wall Street Journal story by Sebastian Herrera headlined “Amazon Set to Close Bookstores, Other Shops in Retail Shift to Groceries, Fashion”:

Amazon.com is planning to close dozens of bookstores and other retail locations it had opened in recent years, part of a broader shift the tech giant is making in its physical retail strategy.

The e-commerce giant said that it plans to close the locations to focus on its grocery stores and technology that powers them at other retail sites. Amazon operates more than 20 bookstores throughout the U.S., “pop up” locations mostly in malls and “4-star” stores. Those outlets have sold some of its bestselling items from electronics to kitchen products. The company has 66 such stores in the U.S….

Amazon, which began as an online bookstore, opened its first physical book shop in Seattle in 2015. It tried to set the stores apart from competitors by providing discounts to Amazon Prime customers, offering its own devices for testing and sale, and creating a highly curated selection of books based on a ratings system. The opening of Amazon’s bookstores was seen as a surprise expansion into the bricks-and-mortar book industry, which had been derailed by Amazon’s yearslong dominance in online book sales.

Amazon has expanded heavily into physical retail since 2015. The company purchased Whole Foods Market in 2017 for more than $13 billion, and has since added to its lineup with a set of cashierless stores named “Amazon Go,” as well as its more conventional Amazon Fresh grocery stores.

Amazon’s technological innovations have been particularly present in its “Go” and grocery stores. Beginning with the Go stores, Amazon has started to equip many of its outlets with dozens of cameras and other technology that enable shoppers to purchase items without having to pass through a checkout line. The company recently opened its first cashierless Whole Foods store near Washington, D.C.

The company also began developing a store concept revolving around apparel, akin to some department stores. One such store—Amazon Style—opened earlier this year near Los Angeles.

Amazon wants to see if the potential apparel stores can improve the brand recognition of its fashion items while addressing some of the irritants of online shopping…

Robots or other forms of automation could eventually be used in the apparel stores, they said. The company has worked with other technology in many stores, including palm-scanning for entry and payment.

While Amazon over the years has used its clout to expand into new markets, the decision to shutter some of its stores show the challenges it has faced in gaining a foothold in physical retail.

The shift in focus to Go, grocery and apparel stores—all of which are using technology to automate some aspects of shopping and checkout—is part of a strategy to potentially license its cashierless system to other retailers. Executives have suggested it could work in much larger stores.

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