Is Amazon Really Planning To Open Brick And Mortar Book Stores?

Once accused of causing the death of the brick-and-mortar bookstore, Amazon is now getting into the actual bookstore business. The first such bookstore was opened in the Amazon hometown of Seattle, Washington. Now questions are swirling that there is a plan to move beyond the first store. It is thought that the stores will open in major markets where Amazon already does big business.

According to the Washington Post (which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) Amazon is likely following the model of other retailers born online that have evolved into actual stores. Jay Klug, a principal at a Chevy Chase developer says that Amazon has already started the hunt in the D.C. area.

“I think they are trying to employ the same strategy as Warby Parker and others to drive more book sales,” Klug said. “What Amazon can do better than anyone else is they can look at the online sales data for an area and they can merchandise that store precisely for that market. Even if people are already customers, Amazon needs those people to remember to buy them again.”

An Amazon bookstore could be a great anchor for any strip mall anywhere in the United States.

“If I’m a mall operator, I would be trying to get an Amazon store into my mall because it should drive traffic,” said Sean Whitehouse, a partner with retail consultancy Kurt Salmon. “Just the name Amazon, the interest would really pique.”

But what current businesses would be threatened by an actual Amazon Bookstore? Barnes & Noble, and once again, the independent book stores that are still in existence after the initial purge caused by the chain stores.

The New York Times says that Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of General Growth Properties, a mall operator, said that Amazon expects to open 300 to 400 stores across the country. When asked where the information originated, he backpedaled and would not comment.

“There are all kinds of studies that show the best way to find things when you don’t know what you’re looking for is an old-fashioned bookstore,” said John Mutter, editor in chief and co-founder of Shelf Awareness, which publishes an email newsletter for booksellers and librarians. “I think that’s a major part of what Amazon is trying to do with this bookstore in Seattle.”

According to Re/Code, the man heading up the Amazon bookstore project is Steve Kessel, a longtime Amazon executive. Procedures are being put in place for automatic check-outs without waiting in line.

“[W]hen the customer passes through the exit (transition area) of the retail location, the items picked by the user may be automatically transitioned from the materials handling facility to the user and the user may be charged a fee for the item,” one section reads.

Another new thing for Amazon will be device vending machines at major airports

Amazon is also testing pop up shops in California in more traditional mall settings to get a read on interest. Despite what Mathrani had to say, Amazon insists he does not speak for them, and that there is no firm plan for several hundred stores at this time.

But ironically, Amazon is posting “we’re hiring” notices in Southern California without an reference to location, It is hinted that the first will be La Jolla, but it’s thought perhaps there will be several stores from Los Angles and south.

Do you think Amazon brick-and-mortar stores are a good idea, or do you think it indicates that Amazon is heading in the wrong direction?

[Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]