Amazon reportedly plans to open up to 400 physical bookstores

Customers pay for purchases at the Amazon Books store in Seattle, Washington, on Nov 3, 2015.
Customers pay for purchases at the Amazon Books store in Seattle, Washington, on Nov 3, 2015.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Amazon, the online retail giant blamed for forcing many brick-and-mortar bookstores into extinction (remember Borders?), is reportedly planning a surprise reversal of that trend.

It plans to open up to 400 physical bookstores, an executive of a major US mall operator said on Tuesday (Feb 2).

Amazon dipped its toe into the waters of brick-and-mortar stores with the opening of a bookstore in its home city of Seattle in November.

"You've got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores," Mr Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of General Growth Properties Inc, said on Tuesday (Feb 2), responding to an analyst's question after it reported earnings.

On the call, Mr Mathrani compared Amazon's plans to similar moves by eyeware company Warby Parker or men's clothing retailer Bonobos, both of which opened physical stores after finding success online.

An Amazon spokesman said the company does not comment on "rumours and speculation".

Before branching out to offer everything from fresh groceries to original TV programming, Amazon got its start as a bookseller 20 years ago. It has since revolutionised the publishing industry by introducing its popular e-reader, the Kindle.

Amazon's bookstore in Seattle carries books selected based on customer ratings and popularity on Amazon.com. The storefront also provides a space for visitors to test-drive Amazon's Kindle, Fire TV and other devices.

Any move by Amazon to expand stores would further antagonise long-time rivals like Barnes & Noble, the largest US bookstore chain, which operated 640 bookstores across the United States as of January. Shares of Barnes & Noble fell more than 5 per cent on Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Mr Mathrani's comments on Tuesday.