Amazon has opened its first cashier-less supermarket, in the first significant move of its strategy to expand and evolve its brick-and-mortar presence this year.
The 10,000 sq ft store, named Amazon Go Grocery, opened on Tuesday morning on Seattle’s Pike Street, a mile away from Amazon’s headquarters. It is the first Amazon-branded store to stock fresh produce such as eggs and tomatoes.
The new location is five times bigger than the existing Amazon Go corner shop-style locations — of which there are about 25 in cities across the US — but only roughly a third of the size of a typical Whole Foods location. Amazon bought the chain in 2017 for $13.7bn.
Including Whole Foods, Amazon accounts for about 4 per cent of the US groceries market, said John Blackledge, an analyst at Cowen. Walmart, by contrast, commands about 25 per cent.
“Amazon is doing it differently with these formats,” he said. “In some, they’re going to have a big staging area for online delivery. It’s a multiyear effort — there’s going to have to be a significant number of stores, but I don’t think they have designs to have parity with Walmart’s store footprint.”
As in the smaller stores, customers at Amazon Go Grocery will check in via a smartphone app. Ceiling-based sensors and cameras will then log the items they pick up, automatically charging them a fee shortly after they leave the store.
Amazon said the system allowed multiple members of the same family be checked in under the same account. Shoppers should not, however, help someone else reach an item, otherwise they would be charged, since the system recognises the customer rather than the basket into which items are placed.
Amazon’s competitors — such as Walmart, and to a lesser extent 7-Eleven — have also experimented with cashier-less stores, but their locations are yet to graduate from the testing phase.
The Seattle opening comes ahead of the launch of another Amazon concept store in Los Angeles, which the company said will open this year.
Built on the site of a former Toys R Us, the LA store will not use Amazon Go’s technology and will instead have a conventional checkout experience, Amazon said.
Floor plans obtained by food tech blog Hngry last week suggested that as well as the walk-in store, much of the location would be used as a micro fulfilment centre with backroom robotics, as well as humans, preparing items for home delivery. Amazon would not comment further on its plans.
Amazon’s physical stores, including Whole Foods, accounted for $4.3bn in revenue in its fourth quarter, down 1 per cent on the same period in 2018. It was the only sector of Amazon’s business to have a revenue drop year-on-year.