In what may be one of the most bitter ironies of our age, the company that helped drive Borders, Waldenbooks, and B. Dalton out of business now reportedly wants to follow in their footsteps. In a headline that seems ripped straight from The Onion, Amazon is planning to open hundreds of physical bookstores, according to a new report from CNBC.
Isn’t it funny how Amazon isn’t even trying to hide the fact that it’s main goal in life is to destroy Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million?
Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of General Growth Properties Inc., a major U.S. mall operator, said in an earnings call on Tuesday that the Seattle-based electric commerce giant is working on plans to open brick-and-mortar bookstores. How many, you ask? Oh, just up to 400.
“You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400,” Mathrani said to The Wall Street Journal in response to a question about mall foot traffic in a world with online shopping.
It is not clear where Mathrani obtained information about the staggering potential number of bookstores (compared to Barnes & Noble’s 640 and Books-A-Million’s 255), though it is speculated in The Journal that the CEO may have discussed the matter with Amazon’s real-estate executives.
Inquistr previously reported back in November that Amazon began experimenting with opening its own physical bookstore for the first time in its hometown of Seattle. Though this was dismissed as a “vanity project” when it was first announced, it seems they may be willing to throw big money at the idea.
Mathrani also did not mention a timeline for Amazon’s alleged expansion plans. Should Amazon choose to pursue this ambitious course, it would take years to pick sites for construction, sign leases and hire staff.
Amazon has promised that the old dead-tree-style books sold at its physical bookstores would not differ in price from its online store, securing their controversial legacy of undercutting the prices of the competition. Titles offered would be based on customer ratings and internet sales, and would also offer a place where customers could test-drive Amazon devices like the Kindle Fire.
Mr. Mathrani compared Amazon’s alleged plans to similar moves by eyeware sellers Warby Parker or men’s clothing comapny Bonobos, who both transitioned from a successful e-commerce business into physical locations. This also wouldn’t be completely unprecedented for Amazon and may even make financial sense according to The Journal.
“While Amazon can overwhelm competitors with its vast online inventory, it still cannot rival the immediacy of shopping at the mall. Not that it isn’t trying: Amazon has begun one-hour deliveries in about 20 cities and same-day drop-offs in other markets. At a handful of U.S. colleges, Amazon has physical locations for students can pick up or drop off merchandise and speak to Amazon representatives. In addition to the Seattle bookstore, Amazon footwear division Zappos and Quidsi, parent of Diapers.com, have experimented with U.S. retail outlets.”
It might seem like the distant past for many us now, but the company famous for driving local brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business started off as a bookselling business itself, as Reuters recalls.
“Before branching out to offer everything from fresh groceries to original TV programming, Amazon got its start as a bookseller 20 years ago. It has since revolutionized the publishing industry by introducing its popular e-reader, the Kindle.”
Amazon has thus far refused to comment on the reports, and an Amazon spokeswoman referred to them as “rumors and speculation.” While it should be clear that the rumors came from a source that doesn’t work for Amazon, Gizmodo repeatedly attempted to obtain on-the-record denials from Amazon and were denied.
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