In Brookfield, Connecticut, just north of Danbury (and just 33 miles north of MNB world headquarters), Amazon is said to be building a new Amazon Fresh full-sized grocery store that will utilize the Just-Walk-Out technology that it has employed in its much smaller Amazon Go stores.
Bloomberg reports this morning that "planning documents for a store under construction in Brookfield, Connecticut, show a store that contains all the hallmarks of an Amazon Fresh grocery store: a two-word logo on dark gray panels above the store’s entrance, online order pickup counter and such full-service departments as a butcher. The plans also identify a dozen entry and exit gates as well as ceiling-mounted racks to run wiring to camera arrays, a setup that until now has only appeared in Amazon Go convenience stores … Amazon appears to have solved a significant technical challenge, creating a grab-and-go system that can handle scores of shoppers at once and cover large supermarkets without being prohibitively expensive to build and operate.
"The breakthrough, if it works, would catapult Amazon ahead of rivals, which are testing similar camera-based technology developed by various startups. Executives at these companies have acknowledged that they are perhaps a year or two away from installing cashierless systems in full-sized supermarkets."
The store, when opened, would be right in the middle of a neighborhood that already has a Stew Leonard's, a Costco, a BJ's Wholesale Club, and a ShopRite; it is right off I-84, a major east-west highway, and just minutes from both Route 7 and I-684, both north-south thoroughfares.
While Amazon has a dozen Amazon Fresh store up and running around then country, with more than three dozen more in development (and likely a lot more that we don't know about), "apart from a test at a Fresh store in suburban Chicago, the new chain doesn’t feature Go-style automated checkout — prompting surprise from industry watchers anticipating a less traditional approach," Bloomberg writes.
"Instead, Amazon developed the Dash smart cart, whose sensors and cameras add up purchases as shoppers cruise the aisles. The carts stop short of a seamless, Go shopping experience. They hold only a couple of bags of food, and shoppers can’t take them outside, forcing them to transfer bags to a low-tech cart or lug their food to the parking lot."
Amazon and the shopping center owner have not commented on the report, though the store was referred to in a local planning board meeting as having "extremely secretive" technology.
- KC's View:
I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon has solved the problem of using its Go technology in large stores. That seemed to be on the agenda from the beginning - Amazon was said to be testing the concept behind the scenes. A lot of people suggested that it just isn't possible, but I think that is a philosophical formulation that the folks at Amazon don't accept.
Remember - it was just a few days ago that Amazon said it would start using a different checkout technology - called Amazon One - at select Whole Foods stores, allowing people to use their palms to check out.
It is all about reducing friction for the customer - a premise that ought to be at the heart of every retailer's culture.