Amazon’s next step in its global domination of commerce could be much closer to home. The internet retailer, which has grown into a $397bn company in the 22 years since its founding, is reportedly planning to build a series of bricks and mortar corner stores selling milk, meat, orange juice and newspapers to further cement its recent expansion into the grocery market.
The company, founded by multibillonaire Jeff Bezos in 1994, is said to be preparing to build a chain of convenience stores as well as drive-through locations where customers can pick up groceries ordered online that day as they commute home.
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported that the designers of the new stores, which are said to be code-named “Project Como”, are taking inspiration from budget chains Aldi and Lidl and would be sparsely stocked with mostly perishable items but also give customers the opportunity to order other items for pickup via their smartphones.
Amazon refused to comment on the speculation surrounding the new stores, which would follow the Seattle-based company’s launch of a physical bookshop in its home town last year. Bookshops are also slated to open in San Diego, New York, Portland and Chicago.
While the company said “we don’t comment on rumors or speculations”, planning documents and building materials labelled “Amazon” at a construction site in Seattle’s Ballard neighbourhood appear to indicate that construction of the first store is well under way. Planning documents seen by technology site GeekWire state: “Storage racks insulation plans on main floor for Amazon.”
It has been reported that the physical stores will be for the exclusive use of customers signed up to Amazon Fresh food delivery service, which is available for $15 a month on top of Amazon Prime’s $99 annual fee.
The company, which has been offering its Fresh service in some densely populated parts of the US since 2007, has been expanding the grocery delivery service rapidly, recently adding new cities across the US. It is now available in Seattle, New York, Washington, Boston, northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, Stamford, Baltimore and large parts of California.
In June it launched outside of the US for the first time, offering grocery delivery to homes in parts of north and east London.
The British service is offered to Amazon Prime members in 69 postcodes for an additional £6.99 ($8.50) a month.
Amazon collected annual sales of $107bn last year, more than double the amount it generated just four years earlier. Its net income totaled $596m.
by Rupert Neate