Amazon Pulling ‘Just Walk Out’ from Amazon Fresh Grocery Stores

According to a story published in The Information, Amazon is planning to pull its Just Walk Out cashierless technology from its large-format grocery store, Amazon Fresh.

As part of the move, the company will begin to deploy its Dash smart shopping carts. Like Just Walk Out, the Dash carts have embedded computer vision, allowing customers to scan products as they put them in the cart.

“We’ve also heard from customers that while they enjoyed the benefit of skipping the checkout line with Just Walk Out, they also wanted the ability to easily find nearby products and deals, view their receipt as they shop, and know how much money they saved while shopping throughout the store,” Amazon spokesperson Jessica Martin told Chain Store Age. “To deliver even more convenience to our customers, we’re rolling out Amazon Dash Cart, our smart-shopping carts, which allows customers all these benefits including skipping the checkout line.”

That Amazon pulled it from Fresh stores (of which there are 44 locations, nearly half in California) isn’t the end of Just Walk Out. The company plans to continue using the technology in its small-format Amazon Go stores and stadiums (such as Lumen Field).

The move, which comes as part of a larger effort to redesign its Fresh stores, is yet another sign that the company’s retail and grocery strategy remains somewhat rudderless. The company paused its Fresh expansion in February of last year before deciding to apparently unpause it later in the year. It has also closed its Fresh pickup format early this year.

My guess is that part of the challenge is that the company seems confused about whether it’s a technology platform provider or one serious about pursuing its own grocery store business. The acquisition of Whole Foods signaled the company was serious about grocery, but since then, it has continued to expand its efforts to pioneer AI and computer vision formats while seemingly neglecting to evolve the Whole Foods stores as the grocery-buying public started craving more flexible solutions around things like curbside pickup.

This move seems to signal that Amazon’s grocery business is beginning to embrace the post-Bezos era (he’s largely stepped away from day-to-day and is focused on his rocket company), moving on from being a company that often pushed new and experimental concepts at the expense building businesses with more conventional, straightforward approaches. According to The Information, the company plans to “spruce up” its stores “across the board” as it prepares to expand Amazon Fresh locations later in 2024.

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