Iconic American bookstore Powell's ditches Amazon, and says quitting the tech giant is like kicking a smoking habit

  • Powell's, a giant in the independent bookstore world, will no longer sell books on Amazon. 
  • "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 letter to customers this week. 
  • Like many retailers that primarily rely on in-person shoppers, independent bookstores have struggled in recent months.
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Powell's, one of the largest and most iconic independent bookstores in the US, is ditching Amazon. 

CEO Emily Powell wrote in a letter to customers on Wednesday that the bookstore would no longer be selling its wares on Amazon's marketplace. Powell's was founded in 1971 and takes up an entire city block in Portland, Oregon. 

"For too long, we have watched the detrimental impact of Amazon's business on our communities and the independent bookselling world. We understand that in many communities, Amazon — and big box retail chains — have become the only option," Powell wrote.

"And yet when it comes to our local community and the community of independent bookstores around the U.S., we must take a stand. The vitality of our neighbors and neighborhoods depends on the ability of local businesses to thrive. We will not participate in undermining that vitality."

Representatives for Amazon did not return Business Insider's request for comment.

Like many retailers that primarily rely on in-person shoppers, independent bookstores have struggled in recent months. Early on in the pandemic, prominent bookstores — including Powell's — were forced to lay off or furlough employees as they fought to stay in business. 

At the same time, Amazon prioritized shipments of essential goods like medical supplies and household cleaning products that were in high demand due to pandemic concerns. To make up for lost sales on Amazon, Powell's began refocusing on customers coming to its own website, Powell told CNBC. 

Powell said that Amazon's marketplace was "hard to give up, sort of like smoking" given that the e-commerce giant has historically been a "big sales generator" for the bookstore.

Ultimately, though, selling on Amazon is cost-intensive for small businesses like Powell's, thanks to expenses related to advertising and providing ultra-speedy shipping.

"No one goes into the book business expecting an easy path, and each year typically brings its share of surprises and challenges. This year, of course, is like none other in memory," Powell wrote in her letter to customers.

"We are all climbing the mountain ahead of us, but the outcome is uncertain."

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