Amazon is closing more than 50 of its physical retail stores, including two dozen bookstores and more than 30 Amazon 4-star stores that sell general merchandise, the company said Wednesday.
The company will have more than 500 Whole Food Market stores and two dozen Amazon Fresh Grocery stores open.
The company “plans to focus more on our Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, Amazon Go and Amazon Style stores and our Just Walk Out technology,” company spokeswoman Betsy Harden said in a statement. “We’re committed to creating great, long-term physical retail experiences and technologies, and we’re working closely with them to help our affected employees discover new roles at Amazon.”
The move sheds light on businesses that have failed to gain traction for the internet giant, which for years has tried to compete in brick-and-mortar retail without much success.
The company’s filing shows that sales in its physical stores have declined. In 2018, in the first full year after Amazon bought Whole Foods, its physical stores had sales of over $ 17.2 billion. Last year, it went below 17.1 billion. (Those figures do not include online sales for grocery delivery and pickup.) The company doubled its overall sales over the same period.
Amazon has been playing with brick-and-mortar stores since opening its first bookstore in 2015 in its hometown of Seattle. At the time, rumors were circulating that the company was setting up its own store, sending reporters wandering around digging blueprints. Over time, Amazon opened bookstores in 13 states.
Amazon announced another experiment in 2018, the Amazon 4-Star Stores. They had a weird collection of well-reviewed products on the company’s website. “This store treats commerce like a tornado,” wrote a New York Times writer, describing a store in Soho that opened in 2018.
The closure, previously reported by Reuters, includes some of the remaining pop-up kiosks that were small mall stores that significantly outperformed Amazon in 2019.
Despite its e-commerce success, Amazon continues to experiment with new types of physical stores. It has opened nearly two dozen cashierless Amazon Go stores, most of which are small grab-and-go convenience stores in cities, and has recently added Cashierless technology to Whole Foods stores. In a few years Amazon has also opened a new line of Amazon Fresh stores that sell traditional groceries, such as Coca-Cola, which does not have a full food stock.
In January, Amazon announced its first clothing store, Amazon Style, which will test whether customers have a tech-based shopping experience, such as using the app to request items in a changing room.