Amazon's brick & mortar retail empire includes a boatload of delivery lockers installed in convenience stores around the world, three bookstores, eighteen unstore pickup locations (including most recently, at the University of Illinois Chicago).
And now we can add three non-traditional grocery stores to the list.
Geekwire reports that Amazon is remodeling a restaurant (map). The project shows every sign of Amazon's usual obsession with secrecy:
Permit filings uncovered by GeekWire show plans to renovate the former Louie’s Cuisine of China site, at 5100 15th Ave. N.W. in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, into a 9,759-square-foot retail space where customers can pick up groceries that they’ve ordered online, in what the project team calls “a new model of grocery shopping.”
The company appears to be doing its best to keep its involvement under wraps. Planning documents filed with the city of Seattle use the mysterious moniker “Project X,” with no reference to the e-commerce giant. Even the people building the project don’t know what’s happening.
“No idea,” one worker said when asked what would be going into the building. “We had to sign our life away. Half the guys in there don’t even know what they are working on.”
The planning docs show a store with the classic drive-in bays, although as you can see it is merely labeled Project X:
The first Amazon Books in Seattle was remodeled under a similar level of secrecy (it was called Project Ann), and Amazon usually files its FCC paperwork under front companies, so all this cloak and dagger doesn't protect Amazon's business so much as it tells us who is behind the curtain.
Of course, we already knew who was opening the store as soon as we read "drive-in grocery store".
Last year the Silicon Valley Business Journal broke the news that Amazon was building a drive-in grocery store in Sunnyvale, CA (a Bay area town bordering Mountain View). And then in May 2016 it reported on a second location, this time in San Carlos, CA "at a site at 380 Industrial Road".
That second location has the same architect as the Seattle store and is being leased by one of Amazon's real estate subsidiaries.
There's no first-hand or inside info on how the stores will operate, but the plans submitted to the planning commission revealed the concept image at the head of this post, and the architect did tell the planning commission that:
Customers will purchase their products online and later pick- up their purchased products at the site. When placing a purchase order, customers will schedule a specific 15 minute to 2 hour pick-up window. Peak timeslots will sell out, which will help manage traffic flow within the customer loading area adjacent to the building. When picking up purchased items, customers either can drive into a designated loading area with 9 parking stalls where the purchased items will be delivered to their cars (customers will be directed to turn off their engines once they park to wait for their delivery), or they can arrive on foot or bicycle and pick-up their items in a reception area. The average customer wait time on-site is expected to be 5 minutes.
From the description this sounds like the stores will operate as an AmazonFresh depot which could save you shipping costs while adapting to your schedule.
Amazon has been delivering groceries in the Bay area and other metropolitan areas for several years now, and apparently this could be the next step.
There is no info, however, on how many stores will open, or where. As expected, Amazon isn't talking.