The Wall Street Journal got into the gossip game today with a new report that Amazon is planning to additional bookstores:
The Seattle company plans as many as 400 bookstores, Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of large mall operator General Growth Properties Inc., said on an earnings call with analysts Tuesday.
“You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400,” said Mr. Mathrani in response to a question about mall traffic.
That compares to the 640 stores Barnes & Noble Inc. operates and the 255 locations Books-A-Million Inc. said it had as of last summer. Both companies spent years building out their retail operations.
Amazon has not officially commented on this, but one source told me off the record something that I can't repeat, but which inspired me to call this story gossip and an unsubstantiated rumor. (Take that for what you will.)
Even without the info from Amazon, I had trouble believing this rumor. That CEO would have violated multiple NDAs to make that claim in the earnings call. Yes, people are that stupid sometimes, but I have trouble believing it in this case.
The mall operator in question has interests in 120 malls, and exposing Amazon's plans risks Amazon choosing to sign leases elsewhere. That is millions of annual revenue walking away due to this one slip.
Plus, why would Amazon have told this one CEO their entire plan?
I mean, Jeff Bezos may be a Bond villain (he has rockets, robots, and an empire that spans the news and book industries) but he's not the type to ruin things by monologuing his plans to an outsider.
Yes, Amazon has a single bookstore in Seattle, as well as a double handful of kiosks in malls around the world, and they could well be planning to open more. But 300 stores, when the first store has only been opened for a few months?
It would take years to accomplish, and would involve scouting locations, signing leases, and hiring staff. And that is why this story doesn't pass my sniff test.
What do you think?