Amazon has secured retail space in central London as it prepares to open a string of physical stores in the UK, The Grocer understands.
The sites will be devoted to the UK’s first Amazon Go stores, where customers are automatically charged for their shopping when they leave. There are nine Amazon Go stores in the US, selling freshly prepared food to go, meal kits and other groceries.
The stores are in “key” locations but not those attracting the very highest rents, according to a real estate agent source.
“As agents we understand that they have secured stores in key central London locations,” said the source. “They are going for space in established high-footfall locations but not the obvious highest-rent prime pitches.
“This is not a loss-leading marketing exercise but a serious attempt to crack the grocery market, albeit without any kind of requirement to make a profit.
“This is the biggest issue for the other operators on the market.”
One of the stores is believed to be off Oxford Street, close to London’s most famous shopping destination rather than in the heart of it.
The sites are around 5,000 sq ft, the source added.
Amazon is also reportedly seeking stores in Surrey, Kent, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and Middlesex.
Groceries at Amazon Go stores in the US range from everyday staples to artisan cheeses and locally made chocolates.
Cameras and sensors track what shoppers take off the shelves and put back. Customers need an Amazon account, the free Amazon Go app, and a recent-generation iPhone or Android device, which they must scan as they pass through a gated turnstile on entering. They are billed when they leave via the credit card linked to the Amazon account.
The internet giant currently provides fresh food in the UK via its Whole Foods supermarket chain, with seven stores in London, and through its Amazon Fresh delivery service to Prime members in selected postcodes in and around the capital.
Amazon did not comment.