Amazon is closing more than 50 of its physical retail stores, including two dozen bookstores and more than 30 Amazon 4-Star stores selling general merchandise, the company said Wednesday.
The company’s more than 500 Whole Food Market stores and two dozen Amazon Fresh grocery stores will remain 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,” Betsy Harden, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement. “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.”
The move sheds businesses that had failed to gain traction for the internet giant, which has for years tried to compete in brick-and-mortar retail without finding a breakthrough hit.
Company filings show sales in its physical stores have shrunken. In 2018, the first full year after it bought Whole Foods, its physical stores had more than $17.2 billion in sales. Last year, that fell below $17.1 billion. (Those figures do not include online sales for grocery delivery and pickup.) The company doubled its overall sales over that same time period.
The online giant has been toying with brick-and-mortar stores since it opened its first bookstore in 2015 in its hometown, Seattle. At the time, rumors that the company was setting up its own store sent reporters scrambling to dig up blueprints. Over time, Amazon opened bookstores in 13 states.
Amazon announced another experiment, Amazon 4-Star stores, in 2018. They housed an odd jumble of products that were well-reviewed on the company’s website. “This store treats commerce like a tornado,” a New York Times writer described a store in SoHo that opened in 2018.
Despite its e-commerce success, Amazon is continuing to experiment with new kinds of physical stores. It has opened about two dozen cashierless Amazon Go stores, which are largely small grab-and-go convenience stores in cities, and it recently added that cashierless technology to a Whole Foods store. In just a few years Amazon has also opened a new line of Amazon Fresh stores that sell conventional grocery items, like Coca-Cola, that Whole Foods doesn’t stock.
In January, Amazon announced its first clothing store, called Amazon Style, that will test whether customers take to a tech-driven shopping experience, like using an app to request items to a changing room.