Amazon Go, the bricks-and-mortar convenience store chain the tech giant is building in the USA could be poised to launch in the UK. The Times reports that Amazon has been quietly putting together a team of ‘senior British property experts’. The presumption is that the only logical reason why Amazon would need a team of UK commercial property experts would be to secure sites that would host a new chain of Amazon Go stores – the first outside of the USA.
Amazon Go stores employ the latest technology in the world of sensors and computer vision to almost fully automate the groceries shopping experience. Shoppers walk in, activate an app on their smartphone, do their shop and simply walk out with whatever they’ve bought directly charged to a card connected to the app. The store knows what has been bought by an array of cameras and sensors tracking the shop. The technology is advanced enough that it shouldn’t make a mistake even if a shopper decides to return something previously added to their basket. Amazon Go stores sell a range of essential groceries like a typical convenience store as well as gourmet ready-meals.
In the UK groceries sector, Amazon already has a small foothold through its online Prime Pantry and Amazon Fresh services, which are currently serviced through a partnership with Morrisons. But there have been rumours for some time that it is keen on London as the first overseas venture for Amazon Go. Amazon’s current bricks-and-mortar presence on this side of the Atlantic is through its Whole Foods chain, which was acquired two years ago for $13.7 billion. There are a total of seven Whole Foods stores in the UK, all in London.
Despite its dominance of online retailer, Amazon has long held the ambition to expand into physical locations. The high street may be suffering as a result in the market share it is losing to ecommerce but, as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos notes, 90% of retail spending still takes place in physical stores. A large part of that spend is on groceries and household essentials and Amazon wants a piece of the pie.
One known member of Amazon’s new UK real estate team, presumably identifying sites for a bricks-and-mortar expansion on these shores, is Matt Birch, who joined the company in May. Mr Birch spent almost ten years at Sainbury’s as well as a short period at the Co-op and a spell as property director of Tchibo, the German coffee retail chain.