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Amazon opened an “Amazon Fresh” grocery store in London, UK, on Thursday — its first-ever physical store outside the US.
The cashierless store is located in the London Borough of Ealing, west London, and works the same way as the chain’s autonomous Amazon Go stores in the US.
The new store carries a private UK food brand called “by Amazon,” and lets consumers skip the checkout line when they shop.
Customers scan a smartphone app to open the store’s entry gates. Ceiling cameras and shelf weight sensors determine what shoppers add to their carts or put back, and their on-file credit cards are automatically billed after they exit.
The location is much smaller than a supermarket, at around 2,500 square foot, and will sell prepared meals, some groceries, and Amazon devices. It will also have a counter for picking up and returning online orders.
The opening is a sign of the Seattle-based company’s ambition to sell food globally, and its belief that physical stores are a key way to capture consumers’ high spend on groceries, a category it has yet to dominate.
Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has so far worked toward that goal in the US by acquiring the Whole Foods chain in 2017.
It’s also launched an array of its own store formats: about two dozen cashierless convenience stores called Amazon Go, two Seattle-area Amazon Go Grocery stores that are about four times the size, and 10 Amazon Fresh supermarkets in California and Illinois.
Amazon opened its first Amazon Go store in 2018, which, like the new London store, uses a system of cameras and sensors to track shoppers and products so consumers can grab their items and leave without physically checking out. Amazon is also ramping up its efforts to sell the software used in the stores, known as Just Walk Out, to third-party retailers.
In September, the tech giant also launched Amazon One, a biometric scanner, which allows people to pay by waving their hand. As well as plans to sell it to other stores, sports stadiums, and even offices, the tech also works as an alternative entry method for Amazon Go stores.
Because of the pandemic, people have realized the “necessity” of contactless shopping, according to Steve Gu, the CEO of AiFi, which provides retailers with software and hardware so they can make their stores autonomous.
He told Insider the pandemic has expedited the market adoption of autonomous stores, where customers can not only avoid interacting with a cashier, but also avoid waiting in a line at the checkout, where it can be hard to socially distance.