Amazon closes some convenience stores, including 2 in Seattle

Amazon is closing eight Go convenience stores, including two in Seattle, as it continues to assess its brick-and-mortar strategy.

The closures affected the company’s network of Amazon Go stores, convenience stores that sell snacks, take-out items and beverages. They feature Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology which allows customers to skip the queues. In addition to Amazon Go, the company operates Amazon Fresh grocery stores and acquired Whole Foods in 2017.

A spokesperson confirmed Friday that Amazon will permanently close two stores in Seattle, two in New York and four in San Francisco. In Seattle, closing stores are located at Third Avenue and Pine Street inside the old Macy’s building, and at Fourth Avenue and Pike Street.

The spokesperson said both sites had already been closed for some time. Amazon closed the Fourth and Pike store in August “for the safety of our store employees, customers and third-party vendors.” The store in Macy’s old building closed in February 2020. Amazon moved its employees from the building’s offices last March, citing crime concerns.

“Like any brick-and-mortar retailer, we periodically evaluate our store portfolio and make optimization decisions along the way,” the spokesperson said. “We remain committed to the Amazon Go format, operate more than 20 Amazon Go stores across the United States, and will continue to learn which locations and features resonate most with customers as we continue to evolve our Amazon Go stores.”

Prior to Friday’s announcement, Amazon had seven Amazon Go stores and five Amazon Fresh stores in Washington. Nationally, the company operates 44 Amazon Fresh stores and also has Amazon Go stores in Chicago, San Francisco and New York.

The company said earlier this year that it planned to close some locations as it worked to refine the store’s format. Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky told investors in February that Amazon had suspended expansion of Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh stores and was considering closing some sites.

The decision to slow expansion of its grocery store comes amid a year of cost-cutting measures, including the end of some experimental projects, a corporate hiring freeze and job cuts that have affected 18,000 posts.

Last March, Amazon announced that it would close its brick-and-mortar bookstores, 4-star Amazon stores and pop-up mall kiosks. On Friday, continuing to assess its physical footprint nearly a year later, Amazon announced that it would suspend construction of its second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

Yet amid the closings, Amazon is still opening new stores. It opened an Amazon Go store in Puyallup in February as part of its effort to open stores in the suburbs and bring products closer to customers’ homes. The first store in this new format opened in Mill Creek in April.

The Amazon Go concept was unveiled in 2016, and the company opened its first Amazon Go to the public in 2018 in Seattle, on the ground floor of Amazon’s Day 1 skyscraper at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Blanchard St.

The stores are equipped with Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, a network of sensors and software that allows customers to skip the line when they’ve finished shopping.

With Just Walk Out, customers can enter the store using their palm, a code on their phone, or their credit card. Once through the turnstile, the technology keeps track of what they pick up and what they put back on the shelf. Amazon debits their account after they leave.

In February, CEO Andy Jassy told investors that Amazon plans to continue accelerating its grocery business, even reevaluating some stores and leases.

“We’re doing quite a bit of experimentation today in these stores to try to find the right format that resonates with customers and differentiates in a meaningful way and where we like the economy,” Jassy said. “We decided over the last year that we’re not going to expand the physical Fresh store until we have that equation. … We’re optimistic we’ll find that in 2023.”

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