Amazon scouted airport locations for cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Amazon’s ambitious plans to expand the number of cashier-free Amazon Go stores may include opening locations at major airports, Reuters reports.

Representatives from two California airports told Reuters of emails and conversations in June with Amazon personnel exploring potential interest in Amazon Go stores in their terminals. Since those initial contacts, however, the process has halted with no further clue from Amazon about whether airport locations are still a viable near-term plan.

In a June 27 email quoted by Reuters, a Los Angeles International airport technology advisor wrote, “The lead for Amazon Go requested a meeting. Interested?” The answer was affirmative.

Also in June, an Amazon cloud unit account manager requested a meeting with officials at San Jose International Airport. In the request, the manager mentioned Amazon Go as “one of many possibilities we can discuss.”

After the San Jose meeting, an airport manager wrote, “I am looking forward to moving forward with the Amazon Go technology at the airport.”

Since the June meetings? Crickets.

No one is speaking publicly today about whether the concept for airport Amazon Go quick grab eateries is a go or no-go proposition. Given Amazon’s reach and proclivity toward expansion, however, the wait for a decision might not be long in coming. Unless the cashier-free concept has proved an unreported bust, chances are we will hear about the next move in Amazon’s storefront strategy soon.

In September, Bloomberg reported that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sees a significant opportunity for brick and mortar locations in cities where weekday lunchtimes bring crowded delis, sandwich shops, and restaurants. Amazon Go stores configured as quick-service restaurants (QSRs) could be a logical market entry point. Bloomberg also reported the retailer could open as many 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021.

Patrons at Amazon Go locations scan their smartphones on entry. From that point they find, pick up, and leave the store with their selections and Amazon bills their credit cards.

If walk-through retail spots can sell pre-prepared meals profitably, airports are another logical venue. Passengers at busy airport terminals are often in a rush to board flights, make connections, or find other transportation modes to their final destinations.

That Amazon has not followed up on the June airport contacts doesn’t necessarily signify a change in plans on Amazon’s part. The company could be considering massive upscaling for an initial QSR launch. Alternately, Amazon might be weighing the benefits of checkout-free airport stores that sell products other than food, such as Alexa devices and Kindles.

Given the potential costs of opening retail locations in big cities and busy airports, Amazon may also be planning various proof-of-concept trials to determine which implementations test the best.

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