Just a few years ago, it was difficult to imagine Amazon scaling back its online grocery presence, but as the retail giant continues to expand into brick-and-mortar with Amazon Fresh, Amazon Go, Amazon Go Grocery and some 500 Whole Foods Markets, it has decided to discontinue its Amazon Pantry offering.
When Amazon Pantry—originally Prime Pantry—launched in 2014, many in the industry perceived the launch as yet another threat to traditional grocery stores. Like its current Amazon Fresh messaging, the company touted Amazon Pantry as a place for “low-priced everyday essentials.”
Initially, Pantry offered shoppers a flat fee on delivery (with a cap on pounds and/or space, whichever came first) on shelf-stable food and beverages, as well as cleaning products that can be heavy to ship. In 2018, it became a subscription service fee add-on to Prime membership.
But last month, Amazon notified customers who had Amazon Pantry subscriptions of the discontinuation of the service and refunded the monthly subscription fee for December, the company told WGB in an email.
“As part of our commitment to delivering the best possible customer experience, we have decided to transfer Amazon Pantry selection to the main Amazon.com store so customers can get everyday household products faster, without an extra subscription or purchase requirement,” an Amazon spokesperson told WGB. “We will continue to offer customers a growing choice of thousands of low-priced everyday essentials in our Amazon stores, as well as through Amazon Fresh, Prime Now and Whole Foods Market available in more than 2,000 cities and towns.”
Amazon Fresh, which is expected to open its sixth and seventh locations any day now—one in Schaumburg and another in Oak Lawn, Ill.—appears to be putting more of its grocery stock into physical stores. As WGB has previously reported, some industry analysts predict the Seattle-based company has its sights set on 2,000 consumable-focused retail stores in the U.S.—a blend of approximately 750 Whole Foods Markets and the balance represented by Amazon Fresh locations.
For shoppers who wished there was a store that combined their favorite Whole Foods products with mainstream grocery items such as Coca-Cola and Kraft Mac and Cheese, and accompanied this magical mixture with the online-savvy, delivery, Alexa-enabled and checkout-free technology of Amazon, dreams do come true. Amazon Fresh, which opened its new Woodland Hills, Calif., location to select customers on Aug. 27, plans to welcome the public in the coming weeks.
“Customers can find items in the store more quickly by using Alexa and Alexa shopping lists,” according to the Amazon Fresh blog. “When customers arrive in-store, they can access their Alexa shopping list through the Amazon app or on the Amazon Dash Cart, enabling them to quickly navigate aisles and check off items as they shop. Throughout the store we have Amazon Echo Show devices available to ask Alexa for help—simply say, ‘Alexa, where can I find the hot sauce?’ ”
Unlike sister store Whole Foods Market, which is often referred to as “Whole Paycheck,” the Amazon Fresh store said it “offers consistently low prices for all” and free same-day delivery and pickup for Prime members. Here, the Amazon Dash Cart is also in play, allowing customers to skip the checkout line. Shoppers sign into the cart using a QR code on their Amazon app, and then place their bags in the cart, shop and exit through the Dash Cart lane. The cart uses a combination of computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion to identify items in the cart.
Shoppers can request Order Ahead items from the deli, meat and seafood counters, as well as whole pizzas via the Amazon app when they arrive in-store or on the way there. Customers can also shop while their Order Ahead items are prepared. Amazon Fresh will notify them when the order is ready for pickup at the service counter.