SEATTLE -- Amazon has more disruption up its sleeve for the convenience-store and grocery industries, executives with the online and increasingly brick-and-mortar retail giant hinted during its third-quarter earnings call.
Amazon sent shock waves through the retail food universe when it launched an employee-only pilot of Amazon Go, a cashierless c-store, in December 2016, and then acquired specialty grocer Whole Foods Market in August 2017. The moves prompted dire predictions of the retail innovation putting both c-stores and supermarkets out of business.
That threat has yet to be realized, but industry observers are still watching every move that Amazon makes with Whole Foods, Amazon Go and other initiatives to look for more signs of doom and, more important, for ways to compete.
Now Amazon says it is developing new store formats that will integrate its numerous retail concepts, including Whole Foods, Amazon Go, Prime Now, AmazonFresh, Amazon Bookstores, Amazon Lockers and possibly other initiatives.
Here's a look at what might be coming ...
“There will be a lot of integration, a lot of touchpoints and a lot of working together as we go forward,” Brian Olsavsky, senior vice president and CFO of Amazon.com Inc. said on the Oct. 26 earnings call.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and his team “are very like-minded with us, customer-obsessed, ready to work together to continue their mission and expand on their offerings that we can offer customers,” he said.
Amazon is “experimenting with a lot of formats,” Olsavsky said. “Whole Foods really gives us a vast head start on that and a great base, and a great team to work with who has a lot of history. They probably have 10 years to 20 years of learnings that we don't have and wouldn't have. So we're really excited about that, and I think working together will bring our different strengths to the table.”
Whole Foods has approximately 465 stores, and Amazon has about a dozen brick-and-mortar bookstores. It has yet to open an Amazon Go c-store to the public, but new formats will be facilitated especially by the opportunity that the concept’s technology presents, he said.
Just how the company will grow and integrate its various formats remains a secret for now. “You will see more expansion from us,” said Olsavsky. “We're not ready to announce what that will look like, and we are working with the Whole Foods team on how many more stores we might have in that area. But it’s still early, so those plans will develop over time.”
“We definitely see commonality and overlap with the Whole Foods business as well as Amazon in total, but specifically Prime Now and also AmazonFresh,” he said. “And we're going to work to see how we expand those offerings, and in some cases combine them. We're not sure how it'll play out. But we're going to cooperate across those different customer touchpoints and [try] to make them better for customers.”
Meanwhile, as a prelude to expansion, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods is hosting a National Hiring Day on Nov. 2 at all of its U.S. stores, with a goal of hiring 6,000 new employees. It will offer full-time and part-time opportunities for seasonal and permanent positions, including cashiers, culinary experts and prepared-foods specialists.
Seattle-based Amazon’s net income was $256 million in third-quarter 2017, compared with net income of $252 million in third-quarter 2016.