Amazon has opened its Fresh grocery store concept at the Irvine Market Place, the second in Southern California to open in recent weeks.
The store, in a former Babies R Us just east of the 5 freeway, has been in the works for months and has been used since early spring as a waystation for Amazon Fresh grocery deliveries. Its first day open to the public was Thursday, according to employees.
With little notice to the community, the store nonetheless was busy with Amazon Fresh employees making their way through aisles fulfilling customers’ online orders. Dozens of other Amazon store employees were at the ready to help customers navigate and learn the technology that makes this supermarket concept one of a kind.
Fresh is what most Amazon shoppers would expect from the e-commerce titan. Alexa is handy in the aisles to guide shoppers (“Alexa, where are the Pop-tarts?” or “Alexa, what pairs well with steak?”), and high-tech grocery carts automatically scan merchandise. Other automated features include a checkout aisle without the cashier. Customers use their Amazon app to generate a QR code that is then scanned by the cart. When a shopper walks through the smart cart exit lane, items are charged to the credit card on the account automatically.
“Why would I shop anywhere else when I have this?” one giddy shopper asked his wife as they put produce items into their Dash Cart.
Burt Flickinger, a retail analyst with Strategic Resource Group, called the concept “exciting, fast and fun” and “the proverbial Star Wars store.”
When the Woodland Hills store opened Sept. 17, he noted that Amazon’s technology, particularly its ability to process customer payments, will “invigorate” the grocery market and make the store a destination.
. Here are some things to note about the Fresh store:
–Amazon’s Dash Carts have a limited capacity and are engineered for smaller hauls. Two to three brown grocery bags will fit in the basket.
–If a large item blocks the scanner, say a case of water or paper towel, the cart’s cameras will not be able to scan more groceries.
–Find an item without a barcode (we found a packaged doughnut missing its price sticker), and it won’t scan. Find another doughnut!
–The carts have a weight sensor, so if you drop an item into the basket and it doesn’t scan, lights inside the cart turn orange, indicating a malfunction or missing price.
–Yes, you can buy alcohol using the smart cart. But two lights on the cart will turn blue, indicating some items will require approval at the contactless checkout line. (Have your ID ready.)
–You cannot take the Dash Cart out of the store, so it’s either carry the bags or switch them to a standard cart.
–There are standard carts for bigger shopping trips. Shoppers will have to use a traditional cashier lane at checkout.
–The store is big and is considered full service. It has a meat counter, fresh fish, a bakery, and more. An Amazon associate said it’s the biggest store so far among those under development or open. Its aisles are packed with recognized brands and unique items made for Amazon.
–There’s also a kitchen with hot foods like pizza, a “carvery,” a station for sandwiches made to order, and freshly made sushi. Prepared foods are plentiful, too.
–Amazon returns can be made here. In the back corner of the store is a customer services center with lockers for online pickup and a counter to return goods bought online. No packaging necessary, associates say, just make sure you have a barcode for the item.
Amazon touts low prices, national brand items and its own proprietary 365 organic line. Deals for the grand opening include $2.69 for a 12-pack of Coca-Cola; buy one get one free Frito-Lay chips; $0.59 cents per pound for green D’Anjou pears; $7.29 for each 8-ounce Panorama Meats USDA organic beef ribeye steak; and $5.79 for a 55-count Sour Patch, Twizzlers, & Jolly Ranchers Halloween candy assortment.
Several more Fresh stores are planned for Southern California, including locations in Fullerton, Whittier, Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Address: 13672 Jamboree Road., Irvine
Hours: 7 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily
Amid the pandemic, the Irvine store will be open from 7-8 a.m. to serve customers age 60 and older, those with disabilities and those whom the CDC defines as high risk.
Masks and social distancing are required.