What’s Behind Amazon’s Mystery Store?

City permits suggest a large-format retail space with frictionless checkout
Photograph courtesy of Amazon

SEATTLE — Amazon is preparing something at the retail property on 600 E. Pike St. in Seattle, but it won’t comment on what it is.

Comment or not, the online retailer is building some sort of store. The Capitol Hill Seattle blog recently shared a conveyance permit issued by the city of Seattle in March 2019 that gives Amazon permission to start elevator work in the location. Also, tech news site GeekWire recently uncovered a document from early May that lists Lindsay Boyd, an Amazon construction coordinator, as the “client” for the East Pike Street property.

Most revealing are the permit drawings, posted by GeekWire, which reveal 10,400 square feet of what is undoubtedly retail space. GeekWire estimates about 7,000 of that square footage is shoppable space, dwarfing today’s largest Amazon Go, a San Francisco unit that sits at 2,300 square feet. The space also includes a section dedicated to alcohol.

While the relatively large retail footprint does not prove anything, it means the East Pike project might be a part of Amazon’s rumored grocery store plans, first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal wrote that Amazon’s grocery concept will be separate from the Whole Foods brand, but it is unclear if it will be under the Amazon banner.

Whether it relates to Amazon’s rumored grocery stores, the East Pike unit will likely use the Amazon Go “just walk out” frictionless checkout technology. GeekWire reports that there are no traditional checkout areas in the permit drawings. Instead, the drawings include space for the turnstiles through which customers generally enter the Amazon Go stores.

The East Pike unit is also different from Amazon Go stores due to its location. All Amazon Go locations are located in high-traffic commercial areas with plenty of office workers nearby who need a quick lunch or snack. This mystery retail space is in a residential area on the first floor of an apartment complex.

There are now 13 Amazon Go stores open across Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Bloomberg reported that Amazon is considering opening up to 3,000 Amazon Go locations by 2021, but the Seattle-based company has not confirmed its plans.

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