Amazon has denied reports that the company is considering as many as 2,000 brick-and-mortar grocery stores around the U.S.
Earlier this week, Amazon issued a statement in response to several articles about the plans, which surfaced in October, but became a topic of conversation again this week after Amazon unveiled its latest grocery concept Amazon Go.
“It’s absolutely not correct,” an Amazon spokesperson said about reports on the company’s grocery plans. “We have no plans to open 2,000 of anything. Not even close. We are still learning.”
The Wall Street Journal, one of the outlets to report on the 2,000 store plans, doubled down on its assertions following Amazon’s denial. CNBC, citing an “industry source not affiliated with Amazon,” reported that the company is talking to real estate professionals and looking at thousands of sites nationally.
Seattle has been the testing ground for many of these concepts. Amazon Go was the talk of the town this week after opening for private beta testing, prior to its public debut early next year. Shoppers check in and out via their smartphones and the store detects when a shopper takes an item from the shelf, syncing the data to a handheld device. The technology uses concepts like RFID and the innovations that have powered the self-driving car trend.
The system logs items as the shopper goes along, eliminating the need to go through a traditional check-out line. When customers exit the store through a “transition area,” the system senses that they’re leaving, adds up the items and charges their Amazon account.
Not everyone is happy about the automation possibilities and effects on jobs that could come from concepts like Amazon Go. Marc Perrone, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents grocery store and other retail employees, issued a statement following the reveal of Amazon Go saying the stores will degrade customer service and cause job losses.
“Amazon is masking its blind greed as progress,” Perrone said in a statement. “This is not about improving customer experience: It is about destroying good jobs, with no regard to the families and communities impacted. This is not the America that hard-working families want and deserve.”
But Amazon said its Go stores will be full of employees performing different tasks. The company says its stores just want to remove the bottleneck at the checkout line and make the experience more convenient.
“Getting rid of checkout lines is great for customers, and our associates are great for customers too,” Amazon said in a statement. “Amazon Go associates work in both the kitchen and the store, prepping ingredients, making breakfast, lunch, and dinner items, greeting customers at the door, stocking shelves, offering product samples, and helping customers. When the store is open to the public, customers will see a great group of store associates on the floor and in the kitchen.”