Amazon.com is shutting down all 87 of its U.S. pop-up stores in April, ending the retailer’s years-long experiment with these small shops as it tinkers with an evolving brick-and-mortar strategy, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. Amazon has pop-ups inside Whole Foods locations, Kohl's stores and malls around the U.S. The shops let customers try Amazon products (e.g., Fire tablets, Kindle e-readers, Echo smart speakers) and services (e.g., Prime Video, Audible and Kindle Unlimited).
“After much review, we came to the decision to discontinue our pop-up kiosk program and are instead expanding Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star, where we provide a more comprehensive customer experience and broader selection,” an Amazon spokeswoman confirmed to WSJ. Amazon's 4-star stores let customers browse and try some of the products that are sold on its website that have a customer rating of four stars or better. The company also said it will open more 4-star locations and additional Amazon Books stores this year. The closures also don't affect cashier-less Amazon Go stores, according to the report.
Total Retail's Take: One moment Amazon is announcing plans to open physical stores in a whole new vertical (grocery), and the next moment it's closing its pop-up shops. Last week Total Retail reported that Amazon is planning to open a new grocery store chain, with the first opening expected in Los Angeles sometime this year. Amazon closing its pop-up shops isn't a huge surprise. The retailer's physical store locations, which largely consist of Whole Foods, saw revenues decline 3 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, according to Bloomberg. And let's face it, pop-up stores aren't meant to be permanent. It's always interesting to see what trends Amazon follows, and how its reactions to those trends affect other retailers. For example, will other retailers re-evaluate the value of pop-up shops?