Turning the page on a bookstore push launched in Seattle, Amazon ditches dozens of brick-and-mortar shops

Amazon is closing its physical bookstores, “Amazon 4-Star” sites and mall pop-up kiosks as the world’s largest online retailer narrows its brick-and-mortar push to the grocery sector.

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,” Amazon said Wednesday in an emailed 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.”

Amazon began pushing into physical retail in 2015 when it opened a bookstore in Seattle’s University Village and pledged to use technology to redefine the shopping experience. But the first site resembled a small-scale Barnes & Noble without coffee.

Three years later, the company opened Amazon 4-Star stores to highlight products that were popular on the web store. The assortment resembled the random products sold for decades by retailers such as Brookstone, and 4-Star stores failed to stand out.

Amazon has 24 bookstores, 33 4-Stars and nine mall pop-up kiosks. The company planned to open another 16 4-Stars sites, indicating the decision to shutter the operation was abrupt.

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The Seattle-based company made its biggest move into physical retail in 2017 with the $13 billion acquisition of Whole Foods Market, which has about 450 sites. Since then, the company has also launched its own Amazon Fresh supermarkets and now has 24 sites in California, Illinois and the mid-Atlantic region.

Amazon generated $4.69 billion in revenue from its physical stores, mostly from Whole Foods, in the quarter ending Dec. 31, or about 3% of sales.

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