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Amazon seeking sites in London to open first grocery stores

| International retailers

Amazon has reportedly started the hunt for suitable sites in the capital to open its first bricks and mortar grocery stores as part of its strategy to expand in the sector.

According to The Times, the online giant is seeking high street locations in prime areas of central London to potentially launch its new checkout-free convenience concept later this year.  The company began testing its first ‘Amazon Go’ store at the end of last year with its employees in Seattle that allows shoppers to pick up their groceries and simply walk out without having to pay at the checkout. The innovative format uses sensors to track customers as they walk around doing their shopping and record items they pick up, with any purchases automatically billed to their Amazon account when they exit the store.

The Seattle outlet is expected to open its doors to the public soon with Amazon having already registered a trademark for the Amazon Go in the UK.  Sources quoted by The Times said Amazon was looking for around two dozen sites in and around central London.

The company escalated its assault on supermarket sector last June with the launch of its AmazonFresh service in London. A move to open bricks and mortar stores without the overhead of significant numbers of shop floor staff would pile more pressure on the leading grocers.

Professor Heiner Evanschitzky, director of the Aston Centre for Retail Insights (ACRI) at Aston Business School, commented: “The big four should be worried about Amazon’s move into the market. Checkout-free grocery stores take the next logical step in customer convenience – from self-checkout to ‘just walk out’ – which many will welcome.

“But the development does not have to signal the death of the cashier. Instead of trying to mimic the ‘human-less’ format or compete on price – where the likes of Aldi and Lidl will always come out on top – the big four should play to their strengths and focus on their most important asset: shop staff. Despite the trend towards automation, many customers still want guidance and advice, as well as simple human interaction, as they go about their day.

Professor Evanschitzky added: “Our research shows that a customer has to feel inspired to buy. It also reveals that employee behaviour is one of the best ways to increase inspiration, alongside clever product display and in-store design. We wait and see to what extent Amazon Go is able to inspire customers.”

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