Powell’s Books says it won’t sell on Amazon anymore, declaring that the online retail giant undermines communities by siphoning business from the real world and replacing it with internet commerce.
“For too long, we have watched the detrimental impact of Amazon’s business on our communities and the independent bookselling world,” CEO Emily Powell wrote in a note to customers Wednesday.
“The vitality of our neighbors and neighborhoods depends on the ability of local businesses to thrive,” Powell wrote. “We will not participate in undermining that vitality.”
Portland-based Powell’s is among the world’s largest bookstores and is the city’s signature retailer. But it’s dwarfed by the inventory available through Amazon’s website.
So Powell’s, like many other retailers, supplements its business by listing its products on Amazon’s own site – and giving Amazon a share of each sale.
That puts smaller retailers at an obvious disadvantage, given that they’re depending on a much larger competitor for an important share of their sales. But many feel they have no choice but to list on Amazon given that company’s dominant market position online.
Seattle-based Amazon did not respond to a request for comment and Powell’s declined to elaborate on Wednesday’s statement. However, Emily Powell told CNBC that Amazon had been a “big sales generator” for the Portland bookstore.
“It was hard to give up, sort of like smoking,” she said. “We knew we shouldn’t be doing it, but, you know, we sort of needed it from a sales perspective to keep going. We couldn’t face the possibility of not having that sales channel.”
The pandemic changed the landscape, Powell said, with Amazon prioritizing cleaning supplies and other essential goods — slowing the shipment of books. Powell said its Amazon sales slowed so she decided to focus on the bookstore’s own website.
“We just decided to make that a permanent business choice,” Powell said.