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Amazon's much-heralded convenience store of the future, Amazon Go, may seem like a crazy experiment. But the company plans to open as many as six more of these storefronts this year, multiple people familiar with the company's plans have told Recode.
Some of the new high-tech stores are likely to open in Amazon's hometown of Seattle, where the first location is based, as well as Los Angeles, these people said. It's not clear if Amazon will open up Go stores in any other cities this year.
In Los Angeles, Amazon has held serious talks with the billionaire developer Rick Caruso about bringing a Go store to The Grove, his 600,000-square-foot outdoor shopping Mecca, two of these people said.
And in Seattle, Amazon had identified at least three locations for additional Go stores as of last year, according to one source.
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An Amazon spokesperson said she would respond to a request for comment, but never did. Neither Caruso nor his company's spokesperson responded to queries about his discussions with Amazon.
Amazon spent four years crafting a system — dubbed Just Walk Out Technology — that allows shoppers to scan their phone upon entrance, grab desired items off a shelf, and automatically get charged the right amount after exiting without the need to stop at a cash register to pay. (Here's a photo tour of the first Amazon Go store.)
Amazon is hoping that by making convenience store trips even faster, it will raise the bar for brick-and-mortar shopping in much the same way that Amazon Prime did for online shopping and delivery.
If successful, the initiative would help Amazon become even more ingrained in the daily lives of consumers and grab a greater chunk of the giant food and beverage industry that still predominantly lives inside brick-and-mortar stores. There's also been speculation that Amazon could add the Amazon Go system comprised of cameras and sensors to Whole Foods stores now that it owns the grocery chain, but that would be a huge undertaking and represent a significantly greater technology challenge.
If the company does open an Amazon Go store in Los Angeles, it would mark just the latest example of Amazon using that city as an early testing ground for new products and services. Los Angeles was the first city that Amazon expanded its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service to after incubating it for more than five years in Seattle. More recently, Amazon was said to prepare a new shipping service in Los Angeles that would pit it against the big industry carriers UPS and FedEx.
News of the planned expansion of the Amazon Go concept is sure to set off fresh concerns about the great societal challenges that come with the type of automation that Amazon is inventing. Since the Amazon Go model does not involve customers checking out, there are no cashiers working in the stores.
There were more than 3.5 million cashier jobs in the U.S. as of 2016, according to the Department of Labor. Walmart is attempting to build a similar technology that would eliminate the need for cashiers, Recode previously reported.
Though there are no cashiers, the first Amazon Go store does employ workers who prepare fresh food and meals in an exposed kitchen visible to passersby. There is also a greeter stationed near the entrance, as well as a worker who checks customer IDs near the beer and wine selection.