A new Amazon mystery: Clues point to possible location of next grocery store in Seattle

Amazon Go Grocery is big enough that it’s offering shopping carts. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

With the opening of the first-ever Amazon Go Grocery store in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood the tech giant put to rest years of intrigue over its plans for the prime site. Now, with one Amazon retail mystery solved, another has emerged.

RELATED: Inside ‘Amazon Go Grocery’

An Amazon senior manager is listed on permit filings for a project in Seattle’s Central District, where Vulcan Real Estate is building a huge apartment complex with a grocery store on the ground floor. A refrigeration permit filed earlier this month lists Charles Koo, a senior manager of program management at Amazon, as the “owner” on the project, an indication the tech giant could be a tenant on the site.

The location would make it a logical site for the next Amazon Go Grocery. However, the permits don’t say whether the Amazon project will be a large-format grocery store, a smaller convenience store, or something else entirely. The apartment project has several other retail spaces, so it’s possible the tech giant is interested in one of those spots, rather than the grocery site.

Amazon declined to comment.

“What Amazon Go did for central business districts — like locating it very close to where people work so you can get breakfast, lunch, snacks — Amazon Go Grocery does the same thing, but closer to home,” Dilip Kumar, vice president of Physical Retail Technology for Amazon, told GeekWire last week.

Kumar declined to say how many Amazon Go Grocery stores are coming, where the next one might be, or whether they will all be the same size. Plans for an even larger grocery concept in Los Angeles and elsewhere are “something else” entirely, he said.

Amazon’s Dilip Kumar shows off the free bags with Amazon Go Grocery’s green branding. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The first Amazon Go Grocery opened Tuesday. At a 7,700-square-feet, it’s a larger version of the Amazon Go convenience stores. It eliminates the need for checkout lanes and cashiers using artificial intelligence and banks of overheard cameras and sensors to track everything put into shopping carts. The new concept features a wider selection than typical Amazon Go convenience stores, including produce, meat and cheese sections.

The first Amazon Go opened to the public in Seattle in January 2018. Amazon Go has since expanded to 25 locations in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and New York, with stores between 450 and 2,700 square feet.

The large-format store represents Amazon’s latest attempt to leverage convenience and technology to gain a bigger share of the $675 billion U.S. grocery industry. The tech giant scooped up Whole Foods in 2017 in a bid to take on the sizable brick-and-mortar footprints of Walmart, Target, Kroger and others. Those companies have consistently responded to Amazon’s digital pushes around online grocery ordering and delivery.

The new location is in the middle of the Central District, a historically black neighborhood that is seeing rapid displacement as the tech boom continues to bring thousands of well-paid employees looking for housing to the city. The site was home to a Red Apple grocery and other retailers. Vulcan, late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s investment company, is building more than 500 apartments, including some affordable units, in addition to the grocery store.

Just a few blocks down the road, Seattle-based grocer PCC Community Markets is opening a store in another big new development. The possible arrival of an Amazon store signals a potential grocery battle in the gentrifying neighborhood.

Amazon posted $4.4 billion in revenue last quarter in its physical stores category, which includes Whole Foods and Amazon Go stores — but not online grocery orders. In addition to grocery, Amazon has a network of bookstores, Amazon 4-star stores for highly rated items and the new themed pop-up stores.

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