Society and Culture

All the Best Fads Make a Comeback: Rumors of Amazon Stores

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Rumor had it that Amazon would be opening 300-400 brick-and-mortar stores in the upcoming years this past Tuesday, according to a Wall Street Journal article. By Wednesday the original source admitted his words were not the plans of Amazon, but not without getting the hopes up of several reporters and many Americans old enough to remember Borders. The reality of a future with the perks of digital commerce and the advantage of neighborhood stores may be a short lived dream, but it is an indication that we are not completely sold on the idea of a future with total digital reliance.

The rumor all began with Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of General Growth Properties (GCP), a real estate investment trust that specializes in shopping malls. During an investor call, Mr. Mathrani reportedly said, “You’ve got Amazon opening bricks and mortar bookstores, and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores.” The Wall Street Journal took Mr. Mathrani’s word about the stores, and soon other reporters were spreading the word about Amazon’s new plan for a bookstore on a corner near you. Just yesterday though, GCP distanced itself from comments made by the CEO. The company iterated that the CEO’s statements did not represent Amazon’s plans.

The first Amazon bookstore opened in Seattle this past November, so it is not hard to believe they could exist. In Seattle, Amazon’s store stocks its shelves with the most popular selling titles online. Similar to other bookstores, Amazon sells related products such as its own Kindles and even Bose headphones. Any items sold in the store match the price of items online, so the prices are not displayed on the actual books or anywhere next to the books in the store. Instead customers have to scan the books in the store or use an App on their phone to find out prices, which one visitor in Seattle found to be an “infuriating difference” in what first appeared to be a normal bookstore.

Why would Amazon even need bookstores though, especially if they were one of the reasons for the decline of so many bookstores a few years ago? Well, it has been interpreted as a new trend for online retailers. E-tailers such as Birchbox, Warby Parker, and Bonbons use retail stores as a way of expanding their brand name, while mall retailers welcome the companies to fill in the vacancies of traditional stores closing in their malls. Sometimes these physical stores only come in pop up form, but whether they are there for one day or five months, physical stores allow customers to try out the items they’re interested in purchasing. Amazon needs little help expanding the brand’s name, but the stores would be helpful in promoting its new Echo speaker and Fire TV.

Along with worrying whether the bookstores were indeed real, some blogs assured readers not to get their hopes up. However, this warning wasn’t because of the speculation about the actual bookstores, but rather because the bookstores would not resemble those of the past. Fast Company noted the bookstores as “part showroom/boutique, part warehouse, part pickup and shipping window, and, yes, part traditional bookstore.” In some respects the furor over the Amazon bookstores surfaced from our own expectations of the past to return. Bookstores were always more than just a place to buy books. They were alcoves in neighborhoods where all generations could lose themselves in the surrounding titles of narratives, cookbooks, historical novels, and other works. Hopefully, Amazon realizes mixing a little bit of the past with the future would not be such a bad rumor to prove true.

Dorsey Hill
Dorsey is a member of Barnard College’s class of 2016 with a major in Urban Studies and concentration in Political Science. As a native of Chicago and resident of New York City, Dorsey loves to explore the multiple cultural facets of cities. She has a deep interest in social justice issue especially those relevant to urban environments. Contact Dorsey at



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