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Amazon’s first physical bookstore opened this past winter in Seattle. Could there be more on the way? (GeekWire photos)

Update: Retail CEO backs down from statement about Amazon’s plan to open 400 bookstores

Amazon is set to expand its physical retail footprint, according to the CEO of a large mall operator.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Amazon wants to open as many as 400 brick-and-mortar bookstores, sourcing the CEO of General Growth Partners Inc., who talked about Amazon’s plans on an earnings call today.

An Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire that “we don’t comment on rumors and speculation.”

Amazon only has one bookstore today, a 7,400 square-foot shop in Seattle’s University Village that opened this past November.

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Expanding to 400 stores would be a substantial move from Amazon, with the WSJ noting that it would take years to find the right locations and hire employees to run the stores.

Amazon’s bookstore in Seattle utilizes data and information from its massive online store — best-sellers, customer reviews, etc. — to refine the selection of the physical books it sells inside a brick-and-mortar building that smells of printed paper and also features the company’s newest hardware products.

“To be a great bookstore, we really think that bringing the information from Amazon.com to this store helps people have a different view into books,” Jennifer Cast, VP of Amazon Books, told GeekWire in November. “That’s the goal. We believe that we can create a different kind of store and one that customers will want.”

It’s a bit ironic that Amazon opened a physical bookstore, given that the tech giant launched 20 years ago as an innovative online bookseller, offering consumers an alternative to purchasing products from traditional brick-and-mortar stores. It went on to ultimately change how people bought and read books with its vast shipping network and Kindle devices, while putting many independent bookstores out of business in the process.

How Amazon defines success with the bookstore — and perhaps how it will decide to open more locations — is unclear. Is the company trying to sell more of its gadgets? Or is it trying to sell more books during a time when independent booksellers are actually thriving as of late?

“We’re a business, so our goal is to focus on customers, give them a great bookstore, let them test drive our devices, and to sell a lot of books and devices,” Cast said. “We’ll measure success by how well we do that. We hope we can make it work.”

Cast noted that there were no immediate plans to open other Amazon Books locations.

“We hope that if this goes well, if customers love it, we’d love to do it in other places,” she said.

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