Could Amazon’s physical stores fuel a backlash?
Since its initial rise, Amazon has posed a significant threat to a wide range of retail competitors, and yet to date the e-tail giant has not suffered in a meaningful way from backlashes. Will opening physical stores change that?
Following word of Amazon Books opening its first Chicago location in Lakeview in 2017, 17 Chicago-area book stores sent out a joint statement touting the benefits of independents and warning of the negative impact Amazon has on community businesses.
“Independent bookstores pride themselves on serving customers who read voraciously and eclectically and on using books to create a conversation with customers and their communities,” the statement reads. “Booksellers get to know their customers so that they are able to make personal recommendations that enrich and sometimes change people’s lives.”
The statement claims that while independent books stores have always paid taxes that support local communities, Amazon only began to do so following lawsuits. Studies were also cited alluding to Amazon’s negative impact on local retail jobs.
Finally, the letter states that industry experts speculate that the purpose of brick-and-mortar Amazon stores is to continue to collect information that would help Amazon’s non-book sales opportunities. For independent bookstores, however, “customer support is the lifeblood that helps sustain both the stores and the vital communities those stores create.”
Women & Children First, a bookstore in Andersonville, IL, now displays a study detailing how Amazon impacts local communities on its front window. The Chicago-area stores plan to partner together on events that support communities, including bringing in authors, highlighting local authors and working with other local businesses.
Amazon Books has so far opened only two locations, in Seattle and San Diego. A third is planned for Portland, OR.
Amazon’s bitter, high-profile dispute with Hachette over e-book pricing in 2014 heightened concerns in the publishing community over the control Amazon has over book sales. The company also suffered negative press coverage last year after a New York Times reported on its working conditions.
Nevertheless, a SurveyMonkey survey conducted in May for Fortune found Amazon ranked first in the categories of “most trustworthy” and “company you’d most like to invest in.”
- Chicago Booksellers Rip Amazon’s Plan To Open Store In Lakeview – DNA Info
- Amazon And Empty Storefronts – Civic Economics
- Local independent bookstores aren’t happy about Amazon’s planned Chicago store – Time Out Chicago
- Local booksellers brace themselves for the opening of the Amazon Store – Chicago Reader
- Amazon plans to open a Chicago bookstore in Lakeview – Chicago Tribune
- Americans Don’t Just Shop on Amazon, They Also Admire and Trust It Too – Fortune
- Amazon Books is better than Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does Amazon face greater backlash risks as it opens physical book stores? Is it fair game for independents to promote the alleged negative repercussions of Amazon’s arrival? How should Amazon respond if such efforts escalate?