Amazon planning to open 2,000 drive thru grocery stores

November 2, 2016

Amazon plans to build 2,000 drive through grocery stores across the country. Is America ready?

Site plan of proposed store in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. (Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections)

Stores will carry mostly perishable items such as meat, produce and milk. In-store touch screens (or your smartphone) will be used to order non-perishable food items for same-day delivery service. In addition, stores would also only be available to $15 a month Amazon's Fresh service subscribers. According to City of Seattle planning documents, Amazon's grocery business will operate like this:

When placing an online order, customers will schedule a specific 15-minute to two-hour pick up window. Peak time slots will sell out, which will help manage traffic flow within the customer parking adjacent to the building. When picking up purchased items, customers can either drive into a designated parking area with eight parking stalls where the purchased items will be delivered to their cars or they can walk into the retail area to pick up their items. Customers will also be able to walk into the retail room to place orders on a tablet. Walk in customers will have their products delivered to them in the retail room.

The impact of Amazon's plans will be worth evaluating and following in urban markets across the country. The company is specifically targeting organic, ethnic and specialty shop markets.

From a land use and integration perspective, the smaller footprint allows for easier placement into established neighborhoods and communities. It could end up being a positive for long ignored food deserts.  On the other hand, it could end up being another example of a big business squeezing smaller chains and local mom and pop markets out of the grocery business across the country.

A rendering of the drive-thru grocery pickup concept submitted in planning documents (Silicon Valley Business Journal)

The grocery business isn't the only brick-and-mortar industry the e-commerce giant has plans to aggressively expand into. According to CEO Jeff Bezos, it intends to open 300 to 400 bookstores nationwide as well. The company's first bookstore opened in Seattle in 2015 and locations in Chicago and Portland are anticipated to come online by the end of the year. Other announced locations include New York City and San Diego.

Amazon's bookstore in Seattle (Shelf Awareness)

Is your city ready to accommodate the next trend in the retailing and the evolution of the drive thru?

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at  Article main image courtesy of Huffington Post at

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