As Amazon pushes further into physical retail, it’s seeking a foothold in the Bay Area, a region where its futuristic bookstores and grocery marts have yet to find ground.
With an Amazon Books store set to open in Walnut Creek soon, it can count one victory. It has also experienced a significant setback: Plans for an Amazon grocery store in San Carlos have been abandoned, according to the site’s property owner.
Planting stores in the suburbs of San Francisco would put them in the backyard of Apple and Google, companies that view Amazon as one of their few worthy rivals. Walmart, its main foe from the world of physical retail, has its e-commerce headquarters in the Bay Area. Yet as its struggle in San Carlos shows, even Amazon has trouble facing down the strict approvals required for commercial development in the Bay Area.
An Amazon grocery store project in Sunnyvale won approval last fall, but otherwise shows little signs of moving forward. Both the Sunnyvale and San Carlos stores would have allowed shoppers to order online and then pick up groceries in person.
Amazon’s bookstore in Walnut Creek, in the open-air Broadway Plaza shopping center, will be the company’s ninth store. It opened its first in Seattle in 2015, then followed with stores in Portland, Ore., and San Diego. Five more are listed as “coming soon” on its website, including one in Manhattan, N.Y. Though the Broadway Plaza store is not yet listed, an Amazon spokeswoman confirmed that the company is hiring store managers and associates for the site.
The 6,000-square-foot store will be in a spot formerly occupied by Victoria’s Secret, between a Coach and a Kate Spade, according to Shelly Dress, senior property manager with Broadway Plaza. A sign at the location, which is across the street from a Tesla showroom and not far from a now-closed Barnes & Noble, promises an “exciting new retailer coming soon.”
Walnut Creek, with a population of roughly 64,000, has only one independent bookstore, Swan’s Fine Books, which opened in 2013. It sells collectible books, from California to rare genre books, and thus probably won’t compete with Amazon, which stocks books in its stores based largely on their online popularity.