Powell’s Books, an icon store in Portland, Oregon, is removing its books from Amazon. The bookstore’s chief executive Emily Powell mentioned on Thursday through a letter addressed to customers that Powell stops selling books on Amazon. The chief executive noted the “detrimental impact” of the e-commerce business on booksellers and local communities working independently.
“We understand that in many communities, Amazon — and big-box retail chains — have become the only option… And yet when it comes to our local community and the community of independent bookstores around the U.S., we must take a stand… It was hard to give up, sort of like smoking. We knew we shouldn’t be doing it, but, you know, we needed it from a sales perspective to keep going. We couldn’t face the possibility of not having that sales channel.”Emily Powell, CEO of Powell’s Books
Powell’s, founded in 1971, characterizes itself as the world’s largest new and used independent bookseller, with its flagship store covering a full city block in downtown Portland. It uses a website to sell books and Amazon as a marketplace until last Thursday.
Powell pointed out that this decision a long been due in an interview. Amazon was a “big sales generator” for Powell’s before, however handling the business through Amazon is taking up too much labor and costs. Increased expenses are due to the two-day delivery scheme and advertising, among others.
The pandemic was the “final push” that urged Powell to leave Amazon, Powell mentioned. Last March, Amazon gave importance to essential goods shipments like hand sanitizer and paper towels after increased consumer demand. Consequently, this left non-essential goods like books at Amazon’s warehouses.
With decreased sales on Amazon, Powell’s put their website as their priority marketplace. “We just decided to make that a permanent business choice,” Powell said.
COVID-19 made various retailers rethink joining Amazon as a commerce platform. Many stores have shut down because of the pandemic that also prompted a decrease in consumer spending. Correspondingly, there is a rapid transition to online shopping with significant retailers reporting sales made by online orders. Amazon is simultaneously facing increasing regulatory scrutiny both from the U.S. and overseas. The company is undergoing examination for its market power and treatment of sellers.
Earlier this August, industry groups representing authors, publishers, and booksellers wrote to House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., spearheading the Amazon investigation. The groups mentioned that Amazon’s market has its “own and manipulate the playing field” of book distribution. The groups requested the lawmakers to stop the company from using “loss-leader pricing to harm competition.”
Powell added that she isn’t hoping that regulators will rein the Amazon market.
“I’m going to do my best to find a way to compete and hope that at the end of the day, the value to our community is enough to keep us going. If in the meantime, our political systems realize that this business is having a detrimental impact on our economy, even though it looks the opposite, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.”Emily Powell
Amazon representatives still have not responded to comment requests.