Amazon is closing more than 50 of its physical retail stores, including two dozen bookstores and more than 30 4-star Amazon stores selling general merchandise, the company said Wednesday.
The company’s more than 500 Whole Foods 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 company spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We remain committed to creating great, long-term physical retail experiences and technologies, and we’re working closely with our relevant employees to help them find new roles within Amazon.”
The move eliminates companies that have failed to gain ground for the internet giant, which has tried for years to compete in retail without finding breakthrough success.
Documents filed by the company show that sales at its physical stores have declined. In 2018, the first full year after Amazon bought Whole Foods, its brick-and-mortar stores made more than $17.2 billion in sales. Last year, that amount fell below $17.1 billion. (These figures do not include online sales for grocery delivery and pickup.) The company doubled its overall sales during the same period.
Amazon has been playing with physical stores since opening its first bookstore in 2015 in its hometown of Seattle. At the time, rumors that the company was opening its own store prompted journalists to dig up plans. Over time, Amazon has opened bookstores in 13 states.
Amazon announced another experiment, 4-star Amazon stores, in 2018. They housed an odd jumble of products that were well-reviewed on the company’s website. “This store treats trade like a tornado,” wrote a New York Times writer, describing a SoHo store that opened in 2018.
The closures, which were reported earlier by Reuters, include some remaining Pop-Up kiosks, which were small mall stores that Amazon downsized significantly in 2019.
Despite its success in e-commerce, Amazon continues to experiment with new types of physical stores. It has opened about two dozen cashierless Amazon Go stores, which are largely small take-out convenience stores in cities, and it recently added cashierless technology to a Whole Foods store. Within a few years, Amazon also opened a new line of Amazon Fresh stores that sell conventional groceries, like Coca-Cola, that Whole Foods doesn’t stock.
In January, Amazon announced its first clothing store, Amazon Style, which will test whether customers opt for a technology-driven shopping experience, such as using an app to request items in a dressing room.