SEATTLE -- Amazon continues to keep everyone guessing.
On the heels of opening Amazon Go, a small-format physical location that eliminates checkouts with technology, the online retail giant is denying media reports that it will open as many as 2,000 brick-and-mortar convenience stores or grocery stores.
As reported in a McLane/CSP Daily News Flash, "It's absolutely not correct." Amazon spokesperson Pia Arthur said in a statement provided to CSP, "We have no plans to open 2,000 of anything. Not even close. We are still learning."
So what is the online retailer up to? The notoriously tight-lipped company has certainly made a lot of news lately, whether it wanted to or not. Click through to see everything we know about Amazon’s new growth strategy in brick-and-mortar so far ...
1. Grocery-store endeavor
Previous reports indicated that the Seattle-based company aimed to open 20 sites in the next two years and believed the U.S. market has room for up to 2,000 locations.
The pilot program was expected to be implemented by the end of 2018 in major cities such as Seattle, Las Vegas, New York, Miami and the Bay Area of California, according to documents viewed by Business Insider. Work is even underway on some locations. GeekWire spotted an Amazon grocery store under construction in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard (shown above), and another one under construction on the south side of the city. Reports (and progress) indicate they could be open by the end of this year.
2. Aldi aspirations?
The online retailer also denied a Wall Street Journal report that Amazon envisions opening a 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot store that would resemble a discount grocery chain like Aldi.
Amazon has “no plans to build such a store," Arthur told CSP Daily News.
3. 'Just walk out'
Amazon this week launched Amazon Go, a new convenience-store-like retail outlet with no checkout required.
The company’s “just walk out” technology automatically detects when a customer takes or returns products to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When the customer is done shopping, he or she can leave the store. Amazon charges the customer’s Amazon account and sends a receipt.
The first store, located in the e-commerce giant’s home base of Seattle, is currently open to Amazon employees in a beta program. It will open to the public in early 2017, the company said.
4. Employment factors
The largest grocery workers’ union, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, condemned the new Amazon Go location, saying stores without cashiers will “destroy good jobs.”
Amazon, in a statement to Benzinga, said, “We have at least as many associates as traditional retail store[s].”
“Getting rid of checkout lines is great for customers, and our associates are great for customers too,” Arthur told CSP Daily News. “Amazon Go associates work in both the kitchen and the store, prepping ingredients, making breakfast, lunch, and dinner items, greeting customers at the door, stocking shelves, offering product samples, and helping customers. When the store is open to the public, customers will see a great group of store associates on the floor and in the kitchen," Arthur told CSP Daily News.
5. Upping the ante
Wal-Mart also announced last week the opening of a new retail concept, Wal-Mart Pickup With Fuel. The 4,000-square-foot location is a convenience store, gas station and pickup site for online grocery orders.
Are these two giants upping the ante on retailing innovation in a battle for top worldwide retailer?
“There are millions of different things one could think about like a duel between Wal-Mart and Amazon and there are aspects where that’s important,” said Bill Bishop, chief architect at Bricks Meets Click, a Barrington, Ill.-based e-commerce consulting firm. “But for the most part Wal-Mart has laser focus on Amazon but it’s not true the other way.”