Amazon Go is growing beyond its traditional urban footprint, ushering in a new era for the high-tech, physical convenience stores with the opening Tuesday of the company’s first suburban location.
The store in Mill Creek, Wash., about 25 miles north of Seattle, takes Go and its cashierless “Just Walk Out” technology away from the office buildings and familiar downtown settings and puts the format on a busy roadway dotted with gas station mini-marts and shopping plazas.
The move not only brings with it a change of scenery, but a bigger store footprint with expanded food and beverage offerings and related services.
“We still have the same mission — we’re reinventing convenience, we’re focused on hungry and thirsty customers,” said Ayesha Harper, a 14-year Amazon vet who is now managing director of Amazon Convenience, as she walked GeekWire through the store.
While convenience is still key, and Just Walk Out provides the same speedy ability to grab items, pay and leave without standing in a checkout line, Amazon believes customer needs will be different at this type of location.
The expanded footprint of the store — 6,150 total square feet and 3,240 square feet for front of house — is the biggest Go yet and allows for more food and drink offerings. There’s a self-serve Starbucks coffee and espresso bar; nitro cold brew and Kombucha on tap; an ICEE machine; and the first location in the state of Washington to offer Pinkberry frozen yogurt.
Central to the suburban format is a made-to-order kitchen and sandwich counter that is new to Amazon Go. Here, customers can order from 30 menu items including sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, avocado toast, salads, wraps, and more on the spot. At other Go locations, some meals are made in-house, but that food is wrapped and sold from display cases.
On Monday, GeekWire had a club-style sub sandwich made fresh in minutes. I used a tablet at one of two kiosks to scroll the menu, build a sandwich and place my order. It took just a few minutes to get my sandwich in an empty store.
Packaged items made by Amazon workers are still available, but Harper said customers appreciate the ability to customize. The menu was developed by Amazon’s in-house chef team. Amazon says they do not offer mobile order ahead and that orders need to be placed in the store.
The store is clearly catering to shoppers making a quick stop either on the way into work or on the way home. Among the 1,300 items it offers, there are in-a-pinch things such as milk, eggs and butter, and larger pack sizes of soft drinks and other items, which is different than the mostly single-serve offerings in urban Go stores. The store also has a display of household items, auto products and pet treats that are specific to the suburban format.
At the front of the store, where customers enter with the scan of the Amazon shopping app QR code or their palm as part of Amazon One biometric technology, a customer service counter sells Amazon gift cards and processes returns from the e-commerce giant’s online business.
Located at 13209 39th Ave. SE, Amazon Go is surrounded by a large parking lot, other retail and dining locations, and a huge apartment complex in a development called the Farm.
The are two Volta electric vehicle charging stations that a complimentary for customers shopping at the store. But there’s no shortage of places to buy gas along 132nd St. SE, including just across the busy street at a Chevron.
That station features a car wash and an ExtraMile mini mart that has a pizza counter and in-store seating with TVs. Its vast array of shelving and coolers is the typical American experience when it comes to suburban grab-‘n’-go shopping — before Amazon changed what that could mean with an array of overhead cameras and sensors to track customers.
Denny Kendall has been managing the Chevron for two years. From his cashier counter he can see the soon-to-open Go store, past his gas pumps and across the street.
“I don’t think it’s our customer,” he said of who Amazon will be targeting with the new store. “We’re more about customer service. I like human contact.”
Amazon first introduced the Go format and Just Walk Out in Seattle in January 2018. The tech is now used in a number of Amazon’s larger Amazon Fresh grocery stores, two Whole Foods stores, as well as in four food stores located inside Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena.
Amazon is also bringing the Just Walk Out technology beyond its own walls, selling it to other retailers. And in November it opened a store with Starbucks that includes the cashierless checkout system.
Amazon opened another physical store concept with Just Walk Out called Amazon Go Grocery in February 2020 in Redmond, Wash., a suburb east of Seattle. But it closed that location last year and ditched the Amazon Go Grocery brand.
Amazon first made a move into brick-and-mortar retail with the opening of its first physical bookstore in Seattle in 2015. But in a surprising twist in March, Amazon announced it would permanently close 68 physical retail locations, including all of its Amazon 4-star, Books, and Pop Up stores.
Harper said the company is committed to urban and suburban Go locations going forward. A new Go just opened in New York City last week, and a second suburban location will open in Los Angeles later this year.
Amazon Go at 13209 39th Ave. SE in Mill Creek opens Tuesday. Store hours will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
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