PHOTO GALLERY: A Visit to Amazon Go's Newest Chicago Store
CHICAGO — Amazon Go entered the New York City market on May 7 with the opening of its first location that accepts cash, but the online-turned-brick and mortar retailer has several stores already in operation in Chicago, where it opened its first location in September 2018.
Recently, Convenience Store News visited the newest Chicago Amazon Go store — the fourth in the Windy City — located on East Wacker Drive inside the Illinois Center, a mixed-use urban development.
The store's front foyer makes it clear that while Amazon is an international retail giant, Amazon Go is keeping its eye on local favorites. Upon entering the East Wacker Drive store, customers see a large sign indicating which Chicago-area suppliers have products stocked in the store. They include 606 Fresh breakfast sandwiches, Farmer's Fridge salads and Simply D'Lish baked goods.
The latest Chicago Amazon Go store also has several shelves of non-consumable convenience goods, such as common over-the-counter medicines, batteries and soap, as well as an endcap of Amazon-branded mugs and metal water bottles. But the vast majority of the store's offering consists of snacks, food and beverages, showing that even as a convenience-channel newcomer, Amazon has built its product mix around the idea that food is the future of growth in the industry.
A wide array of snacks and beverages are available on the store's interior shelves, while pre-wrapped sandwiches and a deli featuring meats, produce and cheese offers more substantial fare.
Space is set aside for Amazon meal kits, with entrees such as steak au poivre and spiced chicken tacos. This caters to consumers who are interested in having a tasty, quality meal but aren't willing to commit to subscription-based meal kit services.
A small seating area with microwaves provides only limited dine-in space, so hungry customers are better served to take their purchases to go, as the alcove has space for a just few people.
Beer and wine are available in the store, too, complete with signage recommending the best pairings of different foods and types of wine. Hours for the alcohol section — separated from the rest of the sales floor by a lockable glass door — are restricted due to local laws.
Although foot traffic was light when CSNews visited at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday evening, the narrow aisles have the potential to get crowded during busier times. Still, anyone who needs assistance can easily spot store employees dressed in bright-orange Amazon Go uniforms.
Soon after leaving the store, a digital receipt arrived, accurately listing the items taken from the store and the time spent inside.
Overall, Amazon Go's grab-and-go technology was impressively seamless and could give the company a convenience-based advantage in the future. Judging from what the store contained, and not just its cashierless payment method, the company's approach to foodservice and snacking trends could also be just as much of a competitive threat. Time will tell.