Amazon will open its first Fresh grocery store for in-person shopping on an invite-only basis starting this week, and will open to the general public in the coming weeks, the company has announced. Located in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, the store will sell food like pizzas and sandwiches that are prepared on site, as well as a range of items from national and local brands. It’s intended as a cheaper alternative to Amazon’s Whole Foods stores, according to CNBC.
Amazon’s latest grocery store configuration is packed with technology but will not use its “Just Walk Out” cashierless tech. The Fresh store in LA is the first location where shoppers will be able to use Amazon’s Dash Carts, which you log into using the Amazon app and are equipped with cameras and sensors to identify which items you drop in. The cart is compatible with a shopping list made using Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. You can then automatically pay without having to wait in line at the checkout. Amazon says there will also be Echo Show devices dotted around the store to help users find their way around.
By contrast, the Go Grocery store Amazon recently opened in Seattle uses a series of overhead cameras and pressure sensitive shelves to automatically detect what customers buy, allowing them to purchase items by simply walking out of the store. The new Fresh store is significantly bigger than the Seattle Go Grocery store at 35,000 compared to 10,400 square feet, according to CNET, but Amazon tells us that its cashierless technology can scale up to stores of any size. However, it says it opted to use its Dash Carts this time around to explore new shopping technologies. There are reports that Amazon may start bringing the Go-store technology to Whole Foods supermarkets as early as next year.
Although this is the first time an Amazon Fresh will open for in-person shopping, the store has been used to fulfill online orders since April. Speaking to CNBC, the vice president of Amazon’s Fresh stores said this wasn’t its “initial plan,” but that the company responded to the surge in demand for online orders caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon declined to comment to CNBC on when its other online-only Fresh stores in Naperville in Chicago and Irvine and Northridge, California, will open to the public.
The Amazon Fresh store will continue to offer online shopping services in addition to in-person shopping. Amazon says it will offer free same-day delivery for Prime members, and there are also in-store pickup options for online orders. Customers can pick up orders from an in-store service counter, or else by using a “dedicated pick-up parking spot.”
Amazon says the store will be using a number of measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Capacity will be limited to 50 percent, and both customers and employees will be required to wear face coverings while in the store. Customers will be offered free disposable masks, and employees will have their temperature checked on a daily basis.
Update August 28th, 3:15AM ET: Updated with Amazon’s response that its cashierless technology can scale up to stores of any size.