Peek Inside Amazon’s New Grocery Chain

Insiders say the first new store looks fairly conventional.

February 18, 2020

SEATTLE—Leaders in the U.S. grocery industry are watching a strip mall in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles where, between a nail salon and a branch bank branch, Amazon prepares to open the first in a new grocery chain, Bloomberg reports.

The company has been mum regarding details of the 33,000-square-foot store. But based on recently published interior photos of the facility and planning documents filed with the city, the store looks remarkably conventional except for a few Amazon-style flourishes.

Numbered aisles await staples like rice and beans, while waist-high coolers sit between some shelves. In the back, a meat-and-seafood counter sits in one corner, and in another, there’s “Fresh Kitchen” that will offer prepared foods and soups. The new chain will stock the high-volume products that purists at Whole Foods won’t touch, such as Coca-Cola, Smucker’s jam and Tide detergent.

At the store’s center, long aisles of conventional-looking shelves feature digital tags like those used in the Amazon Books and 4-Star stores. The tags permit the retailer to quickly circulate inventory and change prices. Amazon has said the new supermarket will not be equipped with the cashierless system now offered at its Go convenience stores.

One Amazonian touch is the bright orange wall and Amazon smile logo at the store entrance. It designates a window for order pickup and customer returns. Plans show a staging area behind the window with what appears to be shelving, potentially for order pickups from both customers and delivery providers, who will tote orders to customers’ homes. A television display and whiteboard sitting at the return counter will help manage the chaos of deliveries into and out of the store.

“I don’t think they’re going to reinvent how food is sold,” said Neil Stern, a partner with McMillanDoolittle, the retail consulting firm. “That may be just a giant fake for everybody, but the plans look pretty stunningly conventional.”

Amazon hasn’t said much publicly about the new chain and has yet to confirm a Wall Street Journal report that it plans to open dozens of the stores.