Amazon Go’s new Seattle location signals tech giant’s growing ambitions for checkout-free retail concept

Revealed: Amazon Go’s new Seattle location signals tech giant’s growing ambitions for checkout-free retail concept

BY NAT LEVY & TAYLOR SOPER on July 3, 2018 at 10:37 am
Amazon is expanding its checkout-free Amazon Go retail concept with another location in the company’s backyard, GeekWire has learned.

The store, the second in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, will be located in the new Madison Centre office tower at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Marion Street. The first store debuted one mile away at the base of Amazon’s Day One tower in January, after more than a year of fine-tuning the concept.

Amazon confirmed the new store in a statement, saying “We are excited to bring Amazon Go to 920 5th Avenue in Seattle. The store will open in Fall 2018.”

A GeekWire reader first spotted hints of the new Amazon Go in downtown Seattle. We found a permit filing for an “Amazon retail” project at the site and peeked through small gaps in the window covering from the sidewalk to confirm that the company is indeed gearing up to open another high-tech convenience store at the location.

But the biggest clue is visible from across the street at night. A convenient gap at the top of the window covering shows the signature Amazon Go slogan, “No lines. No checkout. (No, seriously.)”

Peering through the window from the sidewalk, GeekWire also spotted rows of sandwiches, bottles of Smartwater and Peligrino, and the entry-exit scanning gates to the store.

According to permit filings with the city of Seattle, the store is larger than the original version — approximately 3,000 square feet, versus 1,800 square feet. It’s on the first floor of the Madison Centre, a 36-story high-rise that opened late last year across from Seattle Central Library and houses law firm Davis Wright Tremaine and Seattle startup Textio.

Not long after the company announced the new retail concept, rumblings about expansion in Seattle started to surface. Permitting activity has long pointed to an expansion in Seattle’s trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood, though development at that site hasn’t progressed much since these reports began to surface.

The company has since confirmed that it’s expanding Amazon Go to San Francisco and Chicago. Earlier this year, Recode reported that Amazon plans to open as many as six additional Amazon Go stores beyond the original Seattle location.

Amazon first announced Amazon Go in 2016, stunning the retail world with the promise of stores without checkout lines or cashiers. After setting a goal of opening the store in early 2017, the first location didn’t debut to the public — it was previously accessible to employees only — until a year later. Reports surfaced that Amazon was having trouble with the technology behind the store, though company officials insisted that wasn’t the case.

The store relies heavily on the Amazon Go smartphone app. Customers scan a unique QR code within the app before passing through a set of glass doors, similar to the gates Amazon employees go through when entering their office buildings every morning. A vast array of overhead cameras and weight sensors in the shelves automatically track what people pick up and take from the store.

When customers leave, they just walk out. Amazon Go’s systems automatically debit their accounts for the items they take, sending the receipt to the app. By logging shoppers in at the entrance, then tracking their actions in the store, the system eliminates the need for traditional checkout registers and checkout workers along with them.

Amazon Go drew giant lines when it opened in Seattle earlier this year. The store has a 4.5-star rating on Yelp, with customers raving about the concept.

Amazon Go is part of a broader push by Amazon into physical retail, including its acquisition of Whole Foods, its Amazon Books stores, and AmazonFresh Pickup.


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