Three years after it acquired Whole Foods Market, Amazon is planning to disrupt the grocery industry once again, this time with innovation not seen in any traditional food retailer — ever.
After months of speculation, the Seattle-based company opened its first stand-alone supermarket banner in late August: a 35,000-square-foot, digitally perfected store in Woodland Hills, California, called Fresh.
The Fresh banner isn’t an offshoot of Whole Foods Market, nor does it look like one of those checkout- less Amazon Go stores that have been popping up in urban areas across the United States, nor does it resemble the 365 banner that Amazon scrapped last year, either.
The new Amazon Fresh supermarket takes elements of all of those concepts — micro fulfillment, contactless features, a curated assortment of premium and conventional products, and highly personalized service — and melds them into one innovative store that offers something for every type of food shopper, from low-touch cashier-less checkout to high-touch made-to-order prepared foods. This is a store designed to appeal to a shopper looking for the best of everything: the best product mix, the best technology and the best shopping experience.
“The Amazon Fresh grocery store is designed from the ground up to offer a seamless grocery shopping experience, whether customers are shopping in-store or online,” says Jeff Helbling, VP of Amazon Fresh stores, in an exclusive interview with Progressive Grocer. “We’ve taken our decades of operations experience to deliver consistently low prices for all, and free same-day delivery for Prime members.”
The Fresh store opened this past Aug. 27 to a select group of invited customers who could shop the store in Woodland Hills, part of the Los Angeles metro area, before it opened widely to the public in the coming weeks; an exact date had not been revealed at press time. Store hours for the new Fresh store are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
Helbling, who has held several high-level roles at Amazon, says that the company had been operating the location as a dark store, with hundreds of associates providing online grocery delivery out of the location over the two months prior to the opening, and was now ready to introduce Amazon’s representation of the perfect grocery store to the world.
Of course, the new Fresh store will have pandemic safety measures in place for the foreseeable future. Helbling says that the company has taken learnings from Whole Foods and applied the same safety measures in Amazon Fresh stores: requiring daily temperature checks for all employees, requiring face coverings for all employees and customers entering the store, offering free disposable masks for any customer who wants one, and operating the store at 50% capacity.
Consumers shopping Amazon Fresh can find a wide assortment of national brands and high-quality produce, meat and seafood. Although declining to offer SKU specifics, Helbling says that the assortment consists of “all the items you’d expect to see in a full-service grocery store,” including national, private and local brands. So shoppers can find natural products such as those found at Whole Foods, conventional and local products such as those found at traditional grocers, and private brands from all of Amazon’s banners, including Amazon and Whole Foods.
Specifically, the company is launching at least two new exclusive private label brands at Fresh stores: Fresh and Cursive.
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