First launched about a half-decade ago, Amazon reportedly plans to shut down all 87 of its pop-up store locations in the U.S. in favor of investing more heavily in its brick and mortar strategy. The ecommerce giant, which has been rapidly expanding its physical store presence throughout the United States, confirmed the report to the Wall Street Journal.
“After much review, we came to the decision to discontinue our pop-up kiosk program,” an Amazon spokesperson told the publication. The company added that it plans to shift its retail focus towards its recently launched 4-Star store concept and its bookstores where they “provide a more comprehensive customer experience and broader selection.”
Amazon pop-up stores have been spotted in myriad locations throughout the country, from malls, to Kohl’s stores, to Amazon’s portfolio of Whole Foods locations, and they typically showcase devices like their Alexa speakers, tablets, and Kindles. The pop-ups have been staffed by individuals donning simple, black Amazon t-shirts who are there to educate people on the latest Amazon products and help complete customer trade-ins of older Amazon devices.
The closings, according to the Wall Street Journal report, are expected to be completed by the end of April. Staff were notified in phone calls over the past week, some of which work at pop-ups that have only been open for a few months. The report noted that the pop-up closures seem to apply only to U.S.-based locations, though that wasn’t immediately clear.
For years, the pop-up locations served as something of a physical-retail experiment for a company that built its name on providing the best online shopping experience. In the time since the pop-ups began appearing, Amazon has fully engrained itself in the physical retail world, opening bookstores, cashierless convenience stores, and the recently-launched 4 Star store concept. It’s the launch of the latter that appears to have solidified the company’s decision to ditch the smaller pop-up locations for a full-blown retail store experience.
The Amazon 4 Star storefront in SoHo, New York.
Amazon 4 Star stores, which began opening this past September, feature thousands of products that span numerous categories—from consumer electronics, to kitchen and home products, to toys and games, and more—with every product in the store averaging a customer rating of (you guessed it) four stars or higher.
That concept, in and of itself, is one that we’ve called a game changer for the brick-and-mortar retail industry. It takes that buzzwordy concept of omnichannel retailing to a completely different level, giving shoppers the confidence that anything they look at in the store has been fully vetted by their fellow consumer.
But it’s not just about the 4 Star concept for Amazon. Other recent reports suggest that the company is looking to open its own grocery store that steps outside of the Whole Foods line, and could actually undercut that chain’s prices, though the products available within wouldn’t directly compete with Whole Foods’ selection. Those stores are expected to be some 35,000 square feet in size and will place an emphasis on customer service and pickup capabilities.
Bottom line here is that, despite the pullback from the pop-up store concept, Amazon is clearly not signifying a desire to get out of the physical retail game. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They’re essentially telling us that they’re ready to stop playing children’s games with these tiny, several-hundred-square-feet locations and that they’d rather invest in full-blown retail stores.