Amazon.com on Thursday introduced Prime Now, a service in Manhattan promising delivery in as soon as one hour.
The service, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is available in parts of New York, though Amazon said it would expand to other cities next year. Amazon will charge $7.99 for delivery within an hour, though two-hour delivery is free, according to a statement.
Amazon said more than 25,000 items are eligible for delivery under the Prime Now program, which is only available to customers who pay $99 for the annual Prime membership.
Amazon had been testing the service with bike messengers for at least a few weeks from a building it leased on 34th Street, opposite the Empire State Building. Seattle-based Amazon has leased the entire building, site of a former department store, for 17 years to house office space as well as merchandise.
Same-day and, now, one-hour delivery have been something of a Holy Grail for e-commerce companies hoping to compete with the immediacy of brick-and-mortar shopping. But the difficult economics of instant delivery have caused rival eBay to scale back the ambition of its similarly-named eBay Now one-hour service and felled startups from the early days of the Internet, like Kozmo.com and Urbanfetch.
Meanwhile, traditional physical retailers like Macy’s and Gap are turning to startups to make same-day or one-hour deliveries for them to stave off the threat from Amazon.
by Greg Bensinger and Chelsey Dulaney