Amazon thinking about major rollout of cashier-less stores

Chain Drug Review, News

SEATTLE — Amazon is considering opening as many as 3,000 of its cashier-less Amazon Go convenience stores by 2021, unnamed sources familiar with the plan told Bloomberg News.

Ten Go stores would be up and running by the end of 2018, 50 by the end of 2019 and up to 3,000 by 2021, according to Bloomberg, which reported that Amazon is targeting dense urban neighborhoods where time-pressed pedestrians are willing to spend a little more than they would at a fast-food restaurant or typical convenience store for better-quality food.

Amazon recently opened its fourth Amazon Go store. It is weighing tweaks to the model as it looks to expand the concept, possibly adding a limited selection of groceries to complement its focus on prepared food pickup, Bloomberg reported. An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment.

The first Go store opened to the public in January at Amazon’s headquarters, following a test run during which it was available only to the company’s employees. Two other Seattle stores have followed. The latest is a 2,000-square-foot store that opened this week on the first floor of the complex that houses Amazon’s Chicago operations. The company has confirmed plans for Go stores in New York and San Francisco.

Customers enter the stores through a turnstile after swiping the Amazon Go app on their smartphones. Once inside, they select items they want from among the mix of prepared and packaged food items, soft drinks and meal kits on the shelves, then they just walk out. Their purchases are tracked by object recognition and inventory management systems, which automatically debit the shopper’s account for items taken, sending a receipt to the app.

A source familiar with Amazon Go’s development told The Seattle Times that the pace of expansion has been a subject of internal debate. The source also said Amazon was looking for ways to bring down the cost of the high-tech systems that automate the stores. Hardware installed for the first Seattle store cost between $2 million and $3 million, the newspaper said.

Amazon is one among several companies — including retailers and technology startups specializing in such areas as robotics and data management — working to bring automation to the retail sector.

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