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Cashierless Amazon Go Grocery Making Its Debut In Seattle

Amazon is opening its first somewhat-larger grocery store sans cashiers today close to company headquarters. Dubbed Amazon Go Grocery, it’s 10,400 square feet -- about five times bigger than the 25 Amazon Go shops that are currently open in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle -- but tiny compared to your average Kroger or Walmart. 

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The space in the Capitol Hill district in Seattle “is still smaller than a typical U.S. grocery store that’s about 40,000 square feet. Amazon Go Grocery is meant to stock shoppers’ kitchen cabinets, and help them with dinner, while Amazon Go stores are meant to serve bustling business districts during the breakfast and lunch hours,” Cameron Janes, vice president of Amazon’s physical retail division, tells  CNBC’s Lauren Thomas. 

“He called Amazon Go Grocery a ‘neighborhood market’ of sorts," Thomas writes. “The new store is stocked with about 5,000 items, including fresh produce, dairy, packaged seafood, meats, bakery treats like doughnuts, household goods like paper towels plus meal kits and a full liquor selection with wines and beer.”

“As with Amazon’s convenience stores, customers scan an ‘Amazon Go’ smartphone app on a gated turnstile to enter and start shopping. Hundreds of ceiling cameras and shelf weight censors ascertain what customers add to their carts, and their on-file credit cards are billed once they leave the store -- no cashiers or checkout lines necessary. If a shopper puts an item back on the shelf after looking at it, Amazon removes the product from his or her virtual basket,” writes  Reuters’ Jeffrey Dastin.

“Amazon hopes the grocery store will serve as a showcase for its technology as it seeks to sell its system to other businesses. The company has recently been in talks with potential partners and is targeting retail options including convenience stores and shops in airports and sports arenas, according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon has discussed multiple revenue models, including a fixed licensing fee or a revenue-sharing agreement, one of the people said,” Sebastian Herrera and Aaron Tilley report for The Wall Street Journal.

“Amazon says its Go system has been trained to handle tricky situations that are unique to grocery stores, like customers handling unpackaged produce that looks similar and sits next to other fruits and vegetables or unboxed baked goods that might get stuffed into a single plastic bag. You can even buy alcohol by taking it off the shelf and walking out, although a human employee will have to check your ID before you enter the store if you intend to peruse the libations aisle,” Nick Statt writes for The Verge.

“Over time, Amazon’s online dominance has solidified a virtuous cycle, where new merchants with new products attract new shopping, and Amazon reaps the benefits of sales as well as shopper and seller data to help hone its retail machine. In the case of the Amazon Go brick-and-mortar stores, Amazon gains insights into its customers’ shopping behavior that it can’t already glean from shopping data on its website…. Shoppers who want to pay in cash can ask a store associate to swipe them in, an addition to the original idea that was implemented after some municipalities banned cashless stores,” writes   Recode’s Jason Del Ray on Vox.

By today’s standards, the store was a long time in the making.

“Amazon leased the retail space at 610 E. Pike Street in Seattle several years ago with the intention of using it for the first Go store. Given a broad mandate to shake up physical retail, the Go team originally planned to build a checkout-free supermarket, complete with a butcher, cheesemonger and coffee bar,” revealsBloomberg’s Matt Day.

“Chief executive officer Jeff Bezos toured a prototype store in late 2015 and said it could confuse customers. Instead, he asked the team to focus on refining the people-tracking technology and checkout experience. Go opened to the public three years later as a convenience store in Amazon’s headquarters, and the original space sat empty -- until now,” Day adds.

But what’s three years when every day at Amazon is “Day One,” as we learn during “Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos,” the recently released PBS Frontline documentary? 

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