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Amazon’s Grocery Has Valley Debut

Amazon.com Inc. opened its first Amazon Fresh grocery store last month in Woodland Hills’ Warner Center neighborhood. Located at 6245 Topanga Canyon Blvd., the store is the debut of the e-commerce giant’s new grocery concept. It fills a 35,000-square-foot vacancy left in 2017 by defunct toy store Toys ‘R Us. Construction began in spring 2019, starting speculation around what business would rise there, until Amazon confirmed its involvement in November. The inaugural Amazon Fresh store predictably features cross-pollination with other tech services from Amazon – an attempt to both refresh the grocery shopping experience and reinforce the parent company’s brand. The grocery is integrated with Amazon Dash Cart, a recently announced “smart” shopping cart that uses sensors and algorithms to identify which items shoppers pick, then charges their debit or credit card automatically when they leave the store, eliminating the checkout process entirely. Also, Amazon Echo Show devices are stationed throughout the store. Shoppers can use them to ask Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, for help locating items. The Woodland Hills grocery even serves as a distribution center for other goods sold by Amazon – customers can have orders shipped to the store for pickup. For now, the store is open only to a select group of invited customers, according to an Aug. 27 blog post from Vice President of Amazon Fresh Stores Jeff Helbling. To shop there, patrons must bring a printed or electronic copy of the invitation. The store will open to the general public very soon, the blog said. Amazon Fresh is separate from Amazon’s Whole Foods and Amazon Go banners, and appeals to a different consumer base. Whole Foods specializes in health-forward foods and private-label products – though goods from Whole Foods’ 365 brand will share shelves with name brand products at Amazon Fresh. Amazon Go is closer to a convenience store. Amazon Fresh is the Seattle e-tailer’s take on a more traditional grocery store. It has been advertised as being more affordably priced than Whole Foods, too. Amazon has confirmed it plans to open additional Amazon Fresh grocery stores in North Hollywood, Northridge, Irvine and throughout Illinois in neighborhoods such as Oak Lawn, Schaumburg and Naperville, all suburbs of Chicago.

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