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Cashierless Amazon Go Plans Pop-Ups, Larger-Format Stores In 2020, Explores Licensing Deals

Amazon Go in Seattle

Amazon's invasion of the grocery store industry could begin in earnest next year.

The e-commerce world-conqueror has been testing a 10K SF version of its cashierless Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, and could roll out the concept in a nationwide expansion as soon as the first quarter of 2020, Bloomberg reports. The new format could reportedly apply to stores as large as 30K SF, the size of many grocery stores.

Since the first Amazon Go opened on Amazon's Seattle campus around two years ago, the concept's national store count has risen to 21, with an average footprint of 2,500 SF. Amazon Go stores sell exclusively prepared and packaged items that are relatively simple for the store's array of cameras and sensors to identify and charge to customers' Amazon accounts, allowing for shoppers to walk straight out of the store once they have selected their items.

Amazon has had grocery store-sized ambitions for its cashierless systems since the early days of Amazon Go, and rumors have repeatedly circulated in the past two years about plans to grow the store's format. A key limiting factor has been the complexity and cost of cashierless technology, but Amazon believes it has lowered the requisite per-store spending enough to finally make such plans realistic, Bloomberg reports.

With its tech in a manageable enough package, Amazon is shopping around for locations in which to place pop-up kiosks that operate like Amazon Go in miniature, Bloomberg reports. Such applications are being considered for retail concourses in sports arenas, airports and movie theaters.

Amazon is also reportedly in early negotiations to license its technology for use in other stores, Bloomberg reports. The potential arrangement appears to resemble how Amazon Web Services provides the backbone for many businesses' cloud computing systems.

While Amazon has been fine-tuning its technology, the rapid physical expansion it promised has yet to materialize as net losses mount for its Physical Retail Services division, The Information reports. Since the initial idea for Amazon Go in 2012, the parent company has spent over $1B on employee salaries alone in that division, Bloomberg reports.

No matter how quick or how far-reaching the Amazon Go expansion will be, it is not designed to preclude Amazon's now-confirmed plans for a grocery store chain of its own aside from its subsidiary Whole Foods. Those stores, the first of which will open in the suburban Los Angeles neighborhood of Woodland Hills, will reportedly have human cashiers.