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Surveillance Shopping Arrives in London as Amazon Go Heads for Ealing Broadway

The almost-no-staff store is set to open this week

Inside The Amazon Go Grocery Store
An Amazon Go store with no cashiers will open in Ealing, London
Getty Images

Global logistics monster Amazon is set to open its first U.K. Amazon Go supermarket in Ealing, west London — where shoppers walk in, pick up their goods, and walk out just like that. Pocket-Lint reports that the store will open in a former Monsoon opposite Morrison’s supermarket in Ealing Broadway, which already partners with Amazon for online grocery delivery in the U.K. The U.K. store is branded as Amazon Fresh.

Shoppers need a smartphone if they want to enter the store, setting an immediate barrier to entry — the Amazon Go app is what the store’s network of cameras and shelf sensors uses to record, compile, and bill each person’s shopping. It’s so proud of the technology that it aims, eventually, to sell it separately to other supermarkets — much like its success with Amazon Web Services.

While the locations are marketed as cashierless, and there are no self-checkout machines to abuse customers for misusing the bagging area in sight, staff are needed for shelf stocking and ID-checking if customers wish to buy alcohol. To enforce coronavirus measures like social distancing, there are ironically likely to be more staff than would be typical when the location opens this week.

The food? It depends on which model Amazon picks. Amazon Go typically sells pre-packed sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items along with snacks and pantry items, while Amazon Go Grocery adds fresh produce, butcher and fish counters, and household goods. With partner Morrisons literally across the street from this store, it will likely pick something in between.

The first Amazon Go “neighbourhood market,” which is like a supermarket if Amazon did it, but not a Whole Foods, which is an Amazon-owned supermarket, opened in Seattle in 2020. Smaller convenience stores are more common, and the size of the retail unit — which has two floors, but is not on the scale of the 10,000 square feet “neighbourhood market” — suggests that this is where the brand will begin its U.K. push. It’s already got a tricky relationship with food and grocery markets here: its investment into Deliveroo came after quietly ending its own restaurant delivery service, while its Amazon Fresh grocery service is yet to make significant inroads into the grocery market.

The supermarket is set to open this week, joining the 27 Amazon Go supermarkets across the U.S. It’s reportedly been in the planning since 2017, when Amazon applied for trademarks on some doozy marketing lines: “No Lines, No Checkout. (No, Seriously),” and “No Queue, No Checkout. (No, Seriously).” Also: “Every Queue is a Defect,” and “Every Line is a Defect.” Ealing locals, this writer included, wait to see what’s daubed on the walls at Jeff Bezos’ behest.

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