Ama­zon tar­gets air­ports for check­out-free store ex­pan­sion

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Business -

AMA­ZON.COM Inc is look­ing at bring­ing its fu­tur­is­tic check­out-free store for­mat to air­ports in an ef­fort to win busi­ness from hun­gry, time-pressed trav­el­ers, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic records and a per­son fa­mil­iar with the strat­egy.

The move un­der­scores how a com­pany that started as an on­line book­seller is mak­ing for­ays into brick-and-mor­tar re­tail to cap­ture a greater share of shop­pers’ spend­ing.

For months, the world’s largest on­line re­tailer has been ex­pand­ing Ama­zon Go, where cus­tomers scan their smart­phones at a turn­stile to en­ter, and then cam­eras iden­tify what they take from the shelves. When shop­pers are fin­ished, they sim­ply leave the store and Ama­zon bills their credit cards on file.

Ama­zon has opened seven of the stores to the pub­lic since Jan­uary: in Chicago, San Fran­cisco and its home­town Seat­tle, mostly cater­ing to work­ers in nearby of­fices look­ing for a quick lunch.

Ama­zon is eval­u­at­ing top U.S. air­ports for new lo­ca­tions, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic records re­quests to sev­eral air­port op­er­a­tors.

“The lead for Ama­zon Go re­quested a meeting,” read a June 27 email from a tech­nol­ogy ad­viser who sup­ports Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional, the sec­ond-busiest air­port in the coun­try, to a con­ces­sions of­fi­cial. “In­ter­ested?”

“Yes. Thanks!” the con­ces­sions of­fi­cial replied.

A few hun­dred miles north, in the heart of Sil­i­con Val­ley, an ac­count man­ager at Ama­zon’s cloud unit asked San Jose In­ter­na­tional Air­port for a meeting and ref­er­enced Ama­zon Go, as “one of many pos­si­bil­i­ties we can dis­cuss.”

Af­ter the June meeting took place, dur­ing which Ama­zon dis­cussed how the stores work, an air­port in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy man­ager wrote: “I am look­ing for­ward to mov­ing for­ward with the Ama­zon Go tech­nol­ogy at the air­port.”

Of­fi­cials from both air­ports have since told Reuters they had no fur­ther cor­re­spon­dence about Ama­zon Go and that the re­tailer would have to un­dergo a com­pet­i­tive bid process to be­come a con­ces­sion­aire, as is typ­i­cal. The com­pany’s cloud unit, Ama­zon Web Ser­vices, has been in touch with air­ports for other pur­poses. The sta­tus of the Ama­zon Go ef­fort is un­clear.

An Ama­zon spokes­woman de­clined to com­ment. A per­son fa­mil­iar with the strat­egy con­firmed that Ama­zon is study­ing how to get the check­out-free stores into air­ports and that an em­ployee with ex­pe­ri­ence in busi­ness devel­op­ment was as­signed to the task.

“Think about how you can ex­pose your brand,” the per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said, on con­di­tion of anonymity. “You’ll be able to build broad aware­ness just be­ing in a dozen of the best air­ports.”

More than 350 mil­lion pas­sen­gers boarded flights at the coun­try’s top 12 air­ports last year, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion data.

Op­er­at­ing in air­ports will present new chal­lenges for Ama­zon Go.

Work­ers must gain clear­ances to staff con­ces­sions af­ter se­cu­rity check­points, and square footage in busy sec­tions of an air­port can be ex­pen­sive to lease. What is more, many air­ports are pub­licly run and re­quire would-be con­ces­sion­aires to put in pub­lic bids for re­tail space.

If “you do a deal, it’s al­most like they go back out and shop it,” said Kazuko Mor­gan, vice chair­man at real estate ser­vices firm Cush­man & Wake­field. She was not speak­ing with ref­er­ence to Ama­zon.

“Not only do your terms be­come pub­lic knowl­edge, some­one can come in at the last hour and block you,” she said.

That has not stopped air­ports from try­ing to court the on­line re­tailer. In Septem­ber, a con­ces­sions man­ager for Dal­las Fort Worth In­ter­na­tional Air­port emailed the vice pres­i­dent in charge of Ama­zon Go, ask­ing for a part­ner­ship “on the first Air­port Ama­zon Go lo­ca­tion.”

The air­port did not im­me­di­ately com­ment on whether the con­ces­sions man­ager got a re­sponse.

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