I went to the first Amazon Fresh store in the UK and felt like a shoplifter. Take a look inside.

Insider's Kate Duffy outside the first Amazon Fresh store in the UK
Insider’s Kate Duffy outside the first Amazon Fresh store in the UK.

  • Amazon has just opened its first cashierless Amazon Fresh store in the UK so I went to check it out.
  • Cameras and shelf sensors monitor what you’re putting in your bag and you’re billed after you leave.
  • The trip was hassle-free, but I wasn’t a fan of the hundreds of cameras dangling from the ceiling.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Amazon Fresh store in the borough of Ealing, west London, is no ordinary supermarket.

Retail giant Amazon opened its first physical store in the UK on March 4 so I decided to go along to see what all the fuss was about.

It operates in the same way as the cashierless 20 Amazon Go stores in the US – you go in, put the items in your bag, and wander back out.

I felt like the world’s biggest shoplifter, even when carrying Amazon’s green bag with “Just Walk Out” slapped on the side.

The whole shopping experience was hassle-free. There’s no dodging trolleys, speed-packing at the till or faffing with credit cards. You get billed after you exit the shop, although my receipt took two hours to come through so I didn’t know exactly how much I’d spent until then.

The location is only 2,500 square feet so it’s much smaller than a supermarket and it would be a struggle to do a weekly shop in there.

Overall, I was impressed at the organisation, cleanliness and efficiency of the store. What I didn’t like was the hundreds of cameras hanging from the ceiling, checking what was going into my bag. It had a dystopian feel.

The food wasn’t anything special, but what makes this store pop is its futuristic technology that means an effortless shopping trip.

Here’s what happened during my shopping trip to London’s new Amazon Fresh and what I bought:

The UK’s first Amazon Fresh store is located in Ealing Broadway shopping centre, West London.

Amazon Fresh UK store
Amazon Fresh store in Ealing, west London.

My first thought when approaching Amazon Fresh was: why Ealing? 

It takes over an hour on the tube to get from central London to Ealing. But the high street is home to some popular household names — the newest being Amazon Fresh.

The doors in the photo above are the exit to the store. The entrance is around the corner where I joined a line, downloaded the Amazon app and got directed by assistants in green jackets.

I visited around 14:00 p.m., just after the lunchtime rush, so the queue wasn’t very long. Considering the store has no tills, it noticeably cut down the waiting time.

As soon as you scan the QR code on the Amazon app, you’re timed. The receipt showed I was inside the store for a total of 17 minutes and 12 seconds.

To get into the store, you have to scan the QR code on the Amazon app, which opens the green barrier.

Amazon Fresh start
Shoppers’ first glimpse inside Amazon Fresh.

Amazon Fresh didn’t fail to give a good first impression. As long as you have the Amazon App downloaded, it’s a simple scan of the QR code and you’re in. 

Customers can take their own bags or pick up the medium-sized, reusable Amazon Fresh bags for £1 ($1.40). There are no trolleys or baskets, which made the whole experience much smoother.

But as a pedantic trolley-stacker, shoving things into a bag and not visually having my food in front of me to organise proved a little difficult.

 

If you look up, you’ll see loads of cameras pointing at the shelves. They track every item that goes into your bag.

Cameras hanging from the ceiling
Cameras hanging from the ceiling.

The main visual difference between Amazon Fresh and other supermarkets were the hundreds of cameras dangling from the ceiling. I felt like I was being watched, even though the cameras were just monitoring what was going into my bag.

On the flip side, it felt safe and secure. If the tech remains reliable, then shoplifting shouldn’t be a concern, as customers are tracked as soon as they enter the store via their Amazon account.

 

The cameras work in conjunction with weight sensors on the shelves to determine which items you’ve picked up.

In the bag it goes
Amazon’s own aubergine masala.

Halfway around the store, I realised I was putting items into the bag in a very exaggerated manner to prove I was set on buying the product and had nothing to hide. 

The aubergine masala was part of a takeaway deal of two mains and two sides for £10 ($14). 

You can’t hand items to other people to put in their basket. You have to pick them up yourself.

Shopping at Amazon Fresh
Amazon Fresh aisle.

It’s a solo shopping experience. If you pick up an item and pass it to another customer, the weight sensors and cameras will think you put the product in your bag so you’ll be charged. 

 

Amazon Fresh sells a range of its own branded food, including pizzas, ready meals and fresh fruit and vegetables at competitive prices.

Amazon's own food
Amazon’s own food.

The retail giant sources its food from British suppliers. Unexpectedly, around one third of the store was taken up by Amazon’s own branded products. And it all looks great!

Prices are average but competitive. It’s £4 ($5.60) for a medium-sized pizza, similar to other UK supermarkets such as Tescos and Sainsbury’s. But Amazon Fresh offered good deals. For the two chicken breasts in the photo above and a side, it’s £5 ($7). 

The store also had free-from, organic and vegan ranges, as well as lots of popular food brands.

 

Amongst all the Amazon food, there’s an Amazon Hub.

Amazon hub at Amazon Fresh
Amazon Hub.

At the back of the store, you’ll find the Amazon Hub where you can pick up and return items that you’ve bought online from the retail company.

In the pharmacy section, there are coasters that you can take to the Amazon Hub to exchange for medicine.

Drugs at Amazon Fresh
Medicine at Amazon.

What is usually a pointing game with a cashier behind a till, is now a case of picking up a coaster and handing it into the Amazon Hub to get drugs.

 

The alcohol is enclosed in a corner with a ‘booze bouncer’ checking people’s ID as they walk out.

Alcohol section at Amazon Fresh
Alcohol section.

The ‘booze bouncer’ welcomed me into the alcohol corner and proceeded to watch what I put into my bag — on top of cameras watching me. I picked up a beer and on my way out, she asked to check my ID. 

When I asked her if I could take a picture of the alcohol section, she told me: “Of course, lots of people are doing that at the moment.”

Given that attractions are shut due to COVID-19, the store has become a tourist magnet. There were certainly more tourists than genuine shoppers roaming around in there.

It was also noticeable that everybody in Amazon Fresh was young. This begs the question of whether older people will have the technology to shop there.

You can even get an Amazon Fresh meal deal.

Meal Deals at Amazon Fresh
Amazon Fresh meal deal.

The meal deal section was huge. There’s a wide variety of meals, snacks and drinks on offer. 

The meal comes at its standard price, then you add any drink and snack on top for £1. Some of the meals were really fancy, such as the lemongrass chicken and edamame mixed grain salad.

Behold Amazon’s ready-to-go hot food and bakery with fresh bread baked on site.

Hot section and bakery at Amazon Fresh
Hot counter and bakery.

Amazon Fresh is ideal for that lunchtime food dash. There was a lot of ready-prepared food, perfect for city workers on the run.

Customers can make a cup of coffee for £2.30. Oat milk was also an option.

Hot coffee at Amazon Fresh
Hot coffee section.

At the front of the store, there were two separate coffee machines, one for normal milk and one for oat milk.

The store itself was bright and vibrant with pop music. It felt exclusive.

Amazon Fresh aisle
The cold aisle at Amazon Fresh.

Amazon Fresh was comparable to a high-quality UK convenience store, such as Waitrose. It was clean, tidy and there was lots to choose from. 

The strangest bit was walking out without having to scan the items.

My receipt was emailed to me two hours after I left the store, which I became impatient for because I was eager to know whether the technology had charged me correctly.

It did — it logged every item in the order I put them into my bag.

The total cost for 13 items came to £20 ($28).

What I bought at Amazon Fresh
My Amazon Fresh treats.

Amazon Fresh makes it too easy to buy things…

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Target’s 2020 sales soared by a massive $15 billion – bigger than the combined growth of the last 11 years

Target
Target store in the US.

  • Target topped Wall Street expectations, reporting a 21% rise fourth-quarter sales.
  • Sales through its same-day deliveries and store pick-up services soared 212% in the quarter.
  • Full-year sales jumped by more than $15 billion, bigger than the combined growth of the last 11 years.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Target Corp beat analysts’ estimates for holiday quarter sales on Tuesday, powered by the company’s same-day delivery and store pick-up services that helped fulfill resilient demand for home goods, toys, and groceries during the pandemic.

Over the past year, Target and Walmart consistently performed better than Wall Street expected as the deep-pocketed national retail chains amped up their online businesses during the health crisis and swiped market share from smaller rivals who rely more on their physical stores.

Still, Target held back on providing sales and earnings forecast for fiscal 2021, citing continued uncertainty over consumer shopping patterns amid the health crisis.

The company’s comparable sales rose 20.5% in the fourth quarter, comfortably beating analysts’ estimates for a 16.4% rise, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Sales through its same-day deliveries and store pick-up services surged 212%, as consumers sought quicker ways to get their online purchases.

Analysts have, however, warned that the torrid pace of growth would be difficult to repeat in the coming months, as COVID-19 vaccine rollouts raise the promise of a return to something closer to pre-pandemic life.

Target’s comparable sales for the full year are expected to slip 3.6%, according to Wall Street brokerages. In February, Walmart said it expects sales and profit growth to slow this year, leading to a fall in its shares.

Total fourth-quarter revenue for Target rose 21.1% to $28.34 billion, beating the average estimate of $27.48 billion. Full-year sales rose by over $15 billion, larger than the combined growth of the last 11 years.

Net earnings surged 65.6% to $1.38 billion. On an adjusted basis, the company earned $2.67 per share.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Kohl’s fourth-quarter earnings topped analysts’ estimates, as customers turned to online shopping during the pandemic

Kohl's
Kohl’s store in the US.

Kohl’s Corp topped estimates for holiday-quarter net sales on Tuesday, as people staying at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic bought more from the department store chain’s online store.

Shares of the mid-priced chain rose 2% as it reinstated a quarterly dividend and said it would buy back shares worth between $200 million and $300 million.

Department stores, including Kohl’s, have been doubling down on cookware, kitchen electrics, beauty products, athleisure apparel, and activewear, as they look to beat lower demand for dresses and formal clothing from consumers working from home.

Kohl’s, which started selling Lands’ End Inc’s comfy clothes last year, now plans to launch its own athleisure brand FLX as it looks to increase store space allotted for activewear.

Net sales fell to $5.88 billion in the fourth quarter from $6.54 billion a year earlier. The market expectation was $5.86 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The mid-priced chain said it expects earnings per share to be between $2.45 and $2.95 for 2021, excluding certain charges. It is largely in line with expectation of $2.67 per share.

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Here’s what Costco looked like when it opened in 1983 and the annual membership was $25

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Costco is one of the most popular big-box stores in the United States. It’s known for selling everything in bulk from toilet paper to seafood.

Jerry Seinfeld: Look at this can of tuna. 

Narrator: Although the members-only wholesaler first opened in 1983, today’s stores don’t look much different than they did almost 40 years ago.

Before the first Costco warehouse opened, there was Price Club, which opened in 1976.

The first location was in a converted airplane hangar in San Diego, California. At the time, it served only small businesses.

Its executive vice president of merchandising, distribution, and marketing, Jim Sinegal, played a big role in its initial success.

After leaving Price Club, Sinegal and Jeff Brotman worked together to co-found Costco Wholesale, which they basically modeled after Price Club.

The first Costco Wholesale store opened in 1983 in Seattle. Annual club membership was just $25 at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about the same annual fee today.

Stores quickly expanded across the Pacific Northwest. 200,000 people held Costco memberships by the end of 1984 and another year later, the company filed for an IPO. Soon, it became a $1 billion company.

Ten years after the first Costco store opened, Price Club and Costco merged to form PriceCostco.

In 1997, PriceCostco changed its name to Costco Companies, Inc. Today, it goes by Costco Wholesale Corporation – or as most people know it, just Costco.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in April 2019.

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