Is Amazon about to copy a playbook move from the brick-and-mortar bookstore chains it helped to diminish?
With the Borders bookstore chain long gone and Barnes & Noble still retreating in many markets across the US, Amazon is now said to be interested in opening hundreds of physical bookstores itself.
An Amazon spokeswoman told Quartz that reports of the plan—first published (paywall) in The Wall Street Journal—were based on rumor and speculation.
News of Amazon’s possible intentions came from a Feb. 2 General Growth Properties earnings call, in which the CEO of the large malls company, Sandeep Mathrani, spoke to investors about online companies increasingly opening physical shops.
“And just case in point, you go to Amazon opening bricks and mortar book stores—and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 book stores,” Mathrani said. He drew a parallel to other retailers like Bonobos (men’s clothing), Warby Parker (eyewear), and Birchbox (cosmetics), all of which started as online concepts and have since opened bricks-and-mortar outposts—though not nearly as many as Amazon apparently is considering.
The Seattle-based e-commerce behemoth already runs one book shop in its hometown, described by the company as a store that integrates the best of online and offline shopping, in which the books in stock are chosen based on Amazon.com’s customer ratings, sales, and pre-orders information.
If Amazon did open 400 stores, it would stand to startle rival Barnes and Noble, which operates about 640 bookstores. But companies like General Growth stand to benefit, as property owners look for new tenants that can help keep the American shopping mall from becoming an extinct species.