May 3, 2012
Shifting PR Allegiances? As It Prepares to Open In-Store Apple Kiosks, Target Announces It Will Cut Ties With Amazon — Retailer Will Discontinue Its Sale Of Kindles, Even Though Target Offered No Reason For Its Decision
In a surprising development, Target announced this week that it will soon stop selling the Amazon Kindle line of e-readers and tablets. The element of surprise lies in the fact that the Kindle has been a huge success for Target, by all accounts — the company said last year that the just-launched Kindle Fire was Target's bestselling tablet on Black Friday. Target representative Molly Snyder said the company, which began carrying the Kindle in its physical stores nearly two years ago, is "phasing out Kindles and Amazon- and Kindle-branded products in the spring of 2012," CNNMoney reports. The news was broken by tech blog The Verge, citing a leaked internal Target memo. Target declined to comment on the specific date that Kindles will disappear from its shelves — The Verge's memo pegged May 13 as the last day for Kindle shipments to Target stores. Target also would not comment on the reason for the Kindle's elimination, saying only "we typically don't discuss our relationships with vendor partners." Meanwhile, Target will still sell other e-readers, including the Barnes and Noble Nook, Snyder said. The surprising announcement, however, does dovetail with another development that tends to eradicate the surprise a bit, since Target recently signed on to sell the Apple iPad, Amazon's chief tablet rival. In fact, Target plans to roll out Apple "mini-stores" in 25 of its store locations to sell iPads and iPhones, CNNMoney reports. But that doesn't fully explain the decision to ixnay the Kindle — after all, plenty of other retailers, including Best Buy and Walmart, sell both Kindles and iPads. Is there indeed a connection? Does Apple have this kind of monopoly-oriented clout? Only time will tell.
The webpage for Target's Kindle-branded online store was empty on Wednesday, a fact that generated much chatter online. But Target rep Snyder noted that Kindles were never for sale on Target.com — customers could only view the e-readers online. Actually buying one from Target required a trip to a brick-and-mortar store, CNNMoney.com reports in an article by Julianne Pepitone.
Beyond Apple's own strong-arming, another possible reason: Target's decision to phase out the Kindle is also occurring as the retailer, along with other major merchants, are trying to fight a growing practice called "showrooming" — when shoppers, armed with smartphones, browse products in physical stores and then shop online for a better price. Earlier this year, Target sent out a letter to vendors asking for help in developing exclusive merchandise and matching rivals' online prices, The Washington Post reports.