Amazon has unveiled yet another quick-serve retail concept with the opening of its first Amazon Go convenience store in Southern California.
The store opens at 6 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 14249 Whittier Blvd. in Whittier, with another coming soon to Torrance.
Like its Amazon Fresh grocery store cousins, Go is equipped with “Just Walk Out” technology, allowing customers to shop, buy what they need, and leave without going through a checkout line or self-service kiosk.
One analyst termed the commerce titan’s newest venture “a distraction” from Amazon’s massive online business.
Small, sleek, stocked with name brands
The Whittier store is small, but the layout is clean and open with products neatly displayed and curated in a way that appears decidedly upscale when compared with a 7-Eleven or Circle K market.
“It’s really a modern take on the convenience store,” company spokeswoman Ayesha Harper said. “Most of our customers are busy people who want to get in, find what they need and get out.”
With a total footprint of 4,100 square feet, including 2,150 square feet of retail space, the store offers a broad selection of grab-and-go food and beverage items, with beer, wine (including Amazon’s “Cursive” pinot noir) and spirits, as well as everyday essentials.
The store’s centerpiece is its made-to-order kitchen, which offers nearly 30 freshly prepared breakfast and lunch items, including breakfast bowls, burritos, hot and cold deli sandwiches, salads and wraps.
Customers place their orders at a small kiosk in front of the kitchen area. For a limited time, sandwiches and wraps are priced at $6, while breakfast items are $3.
The store also offers Starbucks coffee, on-tap cold brew coffee and kombucha teas. Self-serve Pinkberry frozen yogurt is also available for $4.99 a cup with free toppings.
Amazon Go reps said the stores are sourcing many products locally, including beers from Smog City Brewing Co. in Torrance and Three Weavers Brewing Co. in Inglewood, and bakery items from Rockenwagner Bakery in Los Angeles.
For Amazon’s e-commerce customers, the Go store offer a chance to return for merchandise purchased online, and there are lockers to pick up new purchases. But there are space limitations. “We obviously couldn’t store a couch here,” Harper said.
Amazon launched its larger Go concept in April 2022 in Mill Creek, Washington. The two new “suburban” stores complement the company’s 28 smaller-format Amazon Go locations in San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Seattle where the retail space can be as small as 450 square feet.
The first of those stores was unveiled in January 2018. Amazon hasn’t revealed when its Amazon Go at 22135 Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance will open. That 6,100-square-foot store will have 2,850 square feet of retail space.
Customers who opt for Just Walk Out shopping at the Whittier store can enter by scanning the in-store QR code in their Amazon app, using Amazon One or by inserting a credit or debit card to open Just Walk Out gates.
Once inside, purchases are tracked by hundreds of cameras that determine what a consumer takes or puts back on the shelf. Items a customer opts to keep are placed in their virtual cart, and when they’re done shopping they can scan or insert their entry method again to exit the store.
The buying experience is made possible by the same kinds of technologies used in self-driving cars — computer vision, sensor fusion and artificial intelligence.
The hardware for each Amazon Go convenience store typically costs about $1 million, meaning it would take about two years for Amazon to break even, according to RBC analyst Mark Mahaney.
Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York-based retail consulting firm, said the rollout of Amazon Go stores is tracking well below the 2,000 to 3,000 locations the company predicted it would have by now.
“The return just isn’t there,” he said. “Amazon makes all of its money from web services. This is just a distraction.”
The Telegraph reported last month that Amazon has walked away from talks for dozens of additional Amazon Fresh stores in the U.K. in the face of lackluster sales at the 19 stores it already operates there.
Still, other retailers have also shifted some of their operations to a cashier-free model.
Walmart and Sam’s Club have a Scan & Go program that allows customers to scan products with their smartphones and pay with a credit card registered on the app.
7-Eleven has a similar Mobile Checkout program, and Aldi recently opened its first checkout-free grocery store in London. Like Amazon Fresh, Aldi’s Shop & Go app uses motion-sensor cameras and weight sensors to track what’s picked up by customers, who are then charged through the app after they leave.