In a Wednesday earnings call, Sandeep Mathrani, the CEO of the mall operator General Growth Properties (GGP) , mentioned in passing that he believed that Amazon was planning to open up 300-400 more physical bookstores. The comments were first noticed by The Wall Street Journal's Greg Bensinger, and they were later bolstered by a second source at The New York Times who said that while the number will be much lower than 300-400, a more modest expansion is coming.
Amazon declined to comment for this story.
When it opened up its first-ever brick and mortar bookstore in University Village in Seattle last year, Vice President of Amazon Books Jennifer Cast said at the time that "we've applied 20 years of online bookselling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping,"
However many bookstores Amazon decides to open up, the move could present some interesting considerations for investors.
"This move is a head scratcher," Morningstar analyst RJ Hottovy told TheStreet. "Unless they're planning to dedicate some of the square footage for fulfillment capacity/Prime Now or use them as return centers, it's hard to justify an investment of this magnitude."
Baird analyst Colin Sebastian also doesn't think physical bookstores are likely to be a huge initiative for Amazon. "Over the long haul, if there is a case to be made for Amazon stores, then I would assume these would largely take the form of pick-up locations and/or showrooms for Amazon devices," he told TheStreet.
But not all analysts are as skeptical about Amazon opening up more bookstores.
"We continue to believe that a greater focus on physical retail is part of Amazon's long-term growth story," KeyBanc analyst Edward Yruma wrote in a note Wednesday morning. "Our overarching e-commerce thesis is that channels will continue to merge: online retailers will add more stores and traditional retailers will invest in e-commerce."
Yruma, who believes that it is inevitable that Amazon will make a bigger move into physical retail, has visited the Amazon bookstore in Seattle and thinks it's "a compelling blend of traditional retail and e-commerce."
Amazon's ability to combine its data, reviews, and recommendations with the traditional retail setting offers a great curated experience, Yruma said.
And as traditional retailers struggle to grow traffic to their physical stores, it could be the perfect time for Amazon to swoop in, he added. "The push into malls could be well-timed for Amazon, as many retailers continue to close stores and fine-tune their real estate portfolios."