SEATTLE — Amazon is preparing to open its second automated-checkout grocery store in a Seattle suburb and is hiring managers for a third store in the nation’s capital.
The e-commerce giant says on its website a Go Grocery store is “coming soon” to what was formerly a Sears automotive building in Redmond, Washington. Amazon opened its first Go Grocery in Seattle this year after a lengthy development period, its latest move in an ongoing effort to capture more of consumers’ grocery budget.
Go Grocery stores are equipped with cameras and other sensors that enable the company to bill shoppers through an app for items they pick off shelves, eliminating the need for a checkout line.
Amazon’s grocery strategy is also advancing on another front, with new locations of its conventional checkout grocery stores — separate from the Whole Foods Market chain it acquired in 2017 — coming to several metro areas, including Seattle, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Grocery unions have decried Amazon’s moves in the grocery business, citing the company’s pursuit of automation as a risk to grocery store jobs and noting that it has maintained Whole Foods’ anti-union stance.
“This company does not share the same values as our community, and Amazon’s desire to replace workers is a threat to working people of all walks of life,” Joe Mizrahi, secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers 21, which represents more than 46,000 workers in Washington state.
To counter these criticisms, Amazon points to its hundreds of thousands of U.S. employees in warehouses, logistics networks and grocery stores — both automated and conventional.
Amazon has bought and developed a range of grocery concepts as it vies for a bigger slice of the grocery business against U.S. market leaders Walmart and Kroger. In the first quarter, the company recorded net sales at all its physical stores — numbering 571 at the end of 2019 — of more than $4.6 billion, up 7.7% from a year earlier. But that does not include online grocery orders that are fulfilled through its physical stores.
Some industry analysts see the company’s development of its own line of conventional-checkout stores as a key to tapping grocery shoppers beyond the affluent Whole Foods demographic.
Meanwhile, many Whole Foods stores have been altered under Amazon’s ownership to accommodate more online orders — with Amazon workers racing through the aisles to fulfill them — and as pickup points for other Amazon shipments.