Amazon looks set to bring its checkout-free convenience stores this side of the Atlantic.
On Monday the online giant posted a video to promote the new Amazon Go concept, which is due to get its first outing early next year in Seattle. On the same day it trademarked the name ‘Amazon Go’ in the UK, The Grocer can reveal.
Amazon would not comment on its plans, but experts believed the UK would be the next logical destination for the stores, which eliminate the need for customers to pay for goods at a checkout.
Instead, customers will be able to use their smartphones to download the Amazon Go app, which will track everything they take from the shelves and charge their Amazon account accordingly when they walk out.
Neil Saunders, MD of retail research agency Conlumino, said Amazon would be likely to see the UK as its next market after the US. But he warned the UK environment was much tougher to crack, having worked in both countries.
“In the US, even in New York, convenience stores tend to be independently owned and fairly expensive,” he said. “Whereas the UK is saturated with convenience stores and margins are very thin.”
Saunders doubted the checkout-eliminating technology would be enough to tempt consumers on its own. Amazon’s plans to stock fresh “ready-to-eat” breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options could be a larger draw, he argued. “In that way they become a threat to players like Pret and that’s more of an opportunity,” he said.
Geoffrey Barraclough, head of propositions at payment technology company EVO, also said the checkout-free technology was unlikely to hold “mass market” appeal. The cost of the system was likely to push up grocery prices, he forecast. “Any other retailer confronted with the cost of this would laugh and say that’s ridiculous. So it’s not going to be a discount store.
“Amazon does have a demographic. It’s aiming at a certain group of people who would find the technology inordinately cool rather than people who would find it creepy and invasive.”