Amazon is closing three Fresh stores, including the e-commerce giant’s first physical retail site outside North America, in Ealing.
The Ealing store – which launched in March 2021 – as well as Amazon’s Wandsworth and East Sheen sites will close their doors for good on Sunday 23 July.
Amazon told The Grocer the decision “doesn’t mean we won’t grow” the Fresh estate. The company confirmed it is soon to launch two new Amazon Fresh locations in London – in Moorgate and Liverpool Street.
“Our goal is to build a best-in-class grocery shopping experience where Amazon is the first choice for selection, value, and convenience, including in the UK. As part of that, like any physical retailer, we periodically assess our portfolio of stores and make optimisation decisions along the way,” Amazon spokeswoman Lindsay Campbell told The Grocer.
Staff at the soon-to-close stores have been offered new roles in nearby Amazon Fresh stores, and it is understood none have opted to leave the business.
Ealing was Amazon’s first UK grocery store, offering customers a “new convenience grocery format” Amazon said at the time, and the first opportunity to use its ‘Just Walk Out’ technology. The 2,500 sq ft store, at the entrance of Ealing Broadway shopping centre, allows customers to scan their phones on arrival, fill their bags with products and leave without any interaction with staff or a self-checkout machine.
East Sheen opened in November 2021, and Wandsworth the following month. Around the same time, Tesco launched its first GetGo store, offering a similar checkout-free shopping experience, powered by Trigo, and Sainsbury’s opened its version – Smartshop Pick & Go – which utilises Amazon’s technology. Aldi opened its first checkout-free store at the start of last year.
The three Fresh stores are not the first of the small but growing estate Amazon has decided to close. In January, Amazon called quits on its Dalston Fresh store, less than 18 months after it launched.
“While we decided to close three Amazon Fresh stores, it doesn’t mean we won’t grow,” Campbell added. “This year, we will open new Amazon Fresh stores to better serve customers in the Greater London area. We are committed to our investment in grocery, and as we grow we’ll continue to learn which locations and features resonate most with customers.”
The closures and imminent new openings will take Amazon’s Fresh store count in the UK to 18, all of which are in London except one store in Sevenoaks, Kent.
The two new stores will allow customers to enter through a gateless opening – as opposed to scanning their smartphone at an entry barrier, as is the case in most Fresh stores – and identify themselves by scanning either their in-store QR code or payment card at the exit gate.
In February, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy reiterated that the company was committed to grocery and physical retail in a rare and unexpected appearance on the company’s fourth quarter results call. Jassy confirmed grocery is “a really important and strategic area for us”, adding “if you really want to have significant market segment share in perishables, you typically need physical stores”.