Amazon is rethinking its retail ambitions after years of expansion. The company informed Reuters it was closing all 68 of its physical bookstores, pop-up locations and 4-star shops in the US and UK. The company maintained in a statement to the New York Times that in-person retail was still important and that it would focus on its cashierless Just Walk Out tech, its grocery stores and its recently announced Los Angeles clothing store.
Closure dates will vary depending on the store. Workers at affected locations may receive jobs at nearby Amazon shops, the company said.
The company opened its first physical bookstore in November 2015, and its first 4-star outlet in September 2018. Both represented experiments in combining Amazon's online shopping data with the retail world — the in-store selection reflected what was popular or likely to sell. It's not certain how well they fared in practice, but it's safe to say they weren't as disruptive as Amazon's internet-based book sales.
Not that Amazon is worried. The company is still opening more cashier-free Go stores, and third parties like Starbucks and Sainsbury's are testing Just Walk Out. It also has plenty of Whole Foods locations, and in 2020 opened its first Amazon Fresh grocery store. This is more of a shift in strategy than a retreat, even if it suggests some of Amazon's initiatives are more successful than others.
Update 3/3 11:58AM ET: Amazon has shared its full statement with Engadget, which you can read below.
"We’ve decided to close our Amazon 4-star, Books, and Pop Up stores, and focus more on our Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, Amazon Go, and Amazon Style stores and our Just Walk Out technology. We remain committed to building great, long-term physical retail experiences and technologies, and we’re working closely with our affected employees to help them find new roles within Amazon."