Shoppers eager to visit Amazon Fresh stores planned for their communities are finding uncertainty rather than groceries, as store signage has been removed from as many as six locations across the country in recent weeks.
According to reports from local blogs and news organizations, exterior signs have been taken down from yet-to-open Amazon Fresh stores in Rockville, Maryland; Arlington Heights, Illinois; Saugus, Massachusetts; Clearwater, Florida; Staten Island, New York; and Woodland Park, New Jersey.
Some of the publications have referred to the empty Amazon Fresh boxes as "zombie" grocery stores.
These are locations that have been fully built and sitting empty in their respective communities for months, leaving locals to wonder what happens next. Amazon began removing the signs from the empty stores this month, according to local reports.
The delayed openings come about a year after a spate of new Amazon Fresh openings across the country about a year ago. By the beginning of 2023, the company had opened 44 Amazon Fresh stores and about 30 Amazon Go stores, but it is uncertain where those two numbers currently stand.
An Amazon spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment. Other news outlets are also finding it difficult to get answers on what the future holds for these never-opened Amazon Fresh locations.
News organization NorthJersey.com reported in late March that the Amazon Fresh planned for the borough of Woodland Park, New Jersey, has been in the works for more than two years, but the location remains dormant.
The article notes that borough officials contacted Amazon for answers in March and received this message from Amazon’s Economic Development unit: "We regularly review the Amazon Fresh pipeline and we've learned a lot since we first opened our first store in 2020. We are taking the time right now to focus on our existing Amazon Fresh stores in the U.S."
The uncertainty follows comments from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who said in a message to shareholders in mid-April that the company, which also owns and operates Whole Foods Market, is “making changes to drive better profitability.”
“Whole Foods is on an encouraging path, but to have a larger impact on physical grocery, we must find a mass grocery format that we believe is worth expanding broadly,” Jassy wrote in the April shareholder letter. “Amazon Fresh is the brand we’ve been experimenting with for a few years, and we’re working hard to identify and build the right mass grocery format for Amazon scale. Grocery is a big growth opportunity for Amazon.”
It remains unclear, though, what that means for the Amazon Fresh locations that appear preemptively shuttered. The location in Rockville, Maryland, was a newly built structure and “represents a major financial loss for the company,” according to Rockville Nights, an online news organization.
Robert Dyer, author of the article, said construction of the store was completed in the summer of 2022, “and has sat empty with bare shelves since.” His blog post features images of the brightly lit Amazon Fresh sign that was placed on storefront to attract shoppers. But he said the signage was removed from the building about a week ago.
The delayed openings come at the same time Amazon is closing several of its Amazon Go high-tech cashier-less convenience stores. “Like any physical retailer, we periodically assess our portfolio of stores and make optimization decisions along the way,” an Amazon spokesperson told online news organization GeekWire at the beginning of March.
Those shutters followed statements from Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky in February, saying closures were to be expected in 2023.
“We recorded impairments of property and equipment and operating leases, primarily related to our Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go physical stores,” Olsavsky said in early February. “We're continuously refining our store formats to find the ones that will resonate with customers, will build our grocery brand and will allow us to scale meaningfully over time. As such, we periodically access our portfolio of stores and decided to exit certain stores with low growth potential."