The first Amazon Fresh grocery store in the state opens Thursday in Oceanside. Shoppers will be able to use what Amazon Fresh calls walkout technology to pay digitally without going through checkout lanes. Newsday TV's Tory Parrish reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

Amazon is introducing to New York State this week the retailer's version of a traditional grocery store, with technology that allows shoppers to skip checkout lanes, as the e-commerce giant attempts to woo customers who don't shop at its high-end Whole Foods Markets.

The first Amazon Fresh store in the state will open Thursday morning in Oceanside at 3620 Long Beach Rd. 

“When the customers come in the store, they can expect to see a new experience. … I think about the differences and what sets us apart from other retailers in the area. And that will be the technology, that will be the setup of the store, the fixtures that we have. Everything is brand-new. Everything is fresh,” Cory Keller, an Amazon Fresh district manager, said Wednesday during a media tour of the store.

Amazon Fresh supermarkets are full-sized grocery stores with serviced meat and seafood departments and delis.

"We will also have prepared foods like freshly baked pizzas, grab-and-go sandwiches and self-serve hot and cold bars,” a spokeswoman said.

Amazon Fresh stores lean on technology.   

In the Oceanside store, Just Walk Out technology will allow customers to digitally pay for goods without going through checkout lanes. Sensor and camera systems detect when items have been removed from shelves or refrigerators, or returned.

Also, the store has Amazon's virtual assistant technology at three "Ask Alexa" kiosks that customers can use to verbally inquire about deals, product locations and recipes.

There is order-ahead service in which customers can use the app or website to order from the pizza kitchen and deli, meat and seafood departments. The store also features digital price signs for all products in the supermarket.

Just Walk Out technology will allow customers to digitally pay for...

Just Walk Out technology will allow customers to digitally pay for goods without going through checkout lanes. Credit: Howard Schnapp

'An offering beyond Whole Foods'

Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. opened the first Amazon Fresh store in Woodland Hills, California, in August 2020. There are now 54 Amazon Fresh stores — 36 in the United States, including the Oceanside store, and 18 in the United Kingdom.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods, which was purchased by Amazon in 2017, is a high-end chain of 530 grocery stores in the United States, Canada and U.K. focusing on organic and natural products. Amazon Fresh has more traditional grocery offerings at lower prices, but it is not a discounter, grocery industry experts said.

Amazon Fresh is designed to meet the everyday grocery needs of the typical American family, a much larger market segment than that served by Whole Foods. While Whole Foods introduced Amazon to large-scale brick-and-mortar grocery retailing, Amazon has recognized that they need an offering beyond Whole Foods to capture a significant share of consumers’ grocery spending,” said Jon Hauptman, senior director of Inmar Intelligence, a retail industry analytics company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Amazon Fresh stores will serve multiple purposes for Amazon, including being used to help fulfill online Amazon Prime orders and those made to Amazon Fresh for delivery, he said. 

But the Oceanside store will not be used to fulfill online Amazon Prime orders, the Amazon Fresh spokeswoman said.

Also, having brick-and-mortar stores significantly increases awareness of Amazon Fresh throughout the marketplace, Hauptman said.

The exterior of the Amazon Fresh in Oceanside.

The exterior of the Amazon Fresh in Oceanside. Credit: Howard Schnapp

"And it can strengthen their quality image, since consumers know that fresh items that they’re ordering are going to come from somewhere close by,” he said.

Amazon has declined to comment on the other Amazon Fresh stores it has planned.

But a June study from Columbia, Maryland-based publication Food Trade News reported that 28 Amazon Fresh stores were planned for Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania over the next 36 months.

The Amazon Fresh in Oceanside occupies a 47,300-square-foot former Waldbaum’s supermarket space.

Two more Amazon Fresh stores are under construction on Long Island — one will be in part of a former Waldbaum’s supermarket space in East Setauket and the other will be in part of a former Fairway Market space in Plainview.

With Amazon Fresh, Amazon is attempting to compete more with Walmart, which has long dominated the supermarket industry as the top grocery seller in the nation, retail experts said.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart Inc., which has 10,585 stores and warehouse clubs in 24 countries, including 4,735 Walmarts and 600 Sam's Clubs in the United States, generated $255 billion in grocery sales in 2021, Hauptman said.  Whole Foods, the 11th largest supermarket chain in the United States by sales, had $19.2 billion in sales last year, he said. 

In order for Amazon to become a national grocery player, it will have to do more than move into vacant grocery spaces, said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food Trade News and a Wantagh native.

“My belief is that Amazon will ultimately have to acquire one or more regional grocers, grocery chains or independent groups to be a significant factor nationally,” he said.

On Long Island between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, Stop & Shop had the biggest market share among supermarkets, with 51 stores and 32.67% of sales, followed by ShopRite, with 16 stores and 15.64% of sales, according to the June report from Food Trade News. (Stop & Shop closed its Islandia store in May, leaving the grocer with 50 stores on Long Island.)

Whole Foods ranked eighth on Long Island, with six stores and 3.61% of sales, according to Food Trade News.

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