In a time when Jeff Bezos and his Amazon behemoth are quite the necessary evil of the covid pandemic, it must be said that Amazon Fresh - the company’s new retail grocery concept which opened in Ealing in February - is utterly brilliant.

What is Amazon Fresh? It’s a grocery store without cashing up tills.  Using what’s called Just Walk Out Shopping technology, the customer merely scans their Amazon app QR code upon entering and then hundreds of cameras on the ceiling track your movements through the shop and when you lift a bag of bagels off the weight-gauging shelf, the cameras communicate with your amazon shopping basket.  If you replace the bagels, the item is removed from your shopping basket.  Once you’ve finished putting groceries (they sell a wide range of fresh vegetables, fruit, meats, dairy and brands even down to vegan sausages and kombucha) into your shopping bags, you then simply walk out of the store, at which point the camera at the exit then triggers your virtual shopping basket to be charged to your Amazon account. Presto, you’re done. 

What is there to love about it?  For starters, there is no lengthy till experience to endure: no searching for bar codes or waiting for the person in front of you who is unloading their trolley with enough food for several armies. Because of the smart shelves which detect when stocks are low, staff appear to quickly restock whatever is in high demand and presumably stock re-ordering is much more efficient as well.  But most unexpectedly of all, the store – while not offering the human interaction of cashing up - remarkably feels more interactive and customer-focused than traditional grocery stores.  Instead of staff sitting behind tills endlessly dragging bar codes over scanners understandably with scarce a glance upwards at the local shopper, staff are instead all moving around the shop helping customers or restocking shelves.  Moreover, the staff are all mini-tech experts, able to help even the most tech-illiterate among us upload the Amazon app.  

The vibe was much more Apple Genius Bar than supermarket and almost as much community-style interactivity as dare I say the local farmers’ market.  The real kicker, and this won’t surprise, is the fact that Amazon Fresh’s prices are the lowest in the market: almost 15% cheaper than Waitrose, 13.4% cheaper than Ocado, 12% cheaper than Sainsbury’s, 7% less than Morrisons and so on.  And they deliver if you live in the catchment area.

Putting aside the question of whether you as a consumer want to fund Amazon’s sprawling reach into all corners of our consumer society, what is clear is that their new venture in the form of Amazon Fresh is a super concept now brilliantly executed and existing supermarkets would do well to replicate the experience.  It feels like the future.

Amazon Fresh stores in the UK: 59 The Broadway, Ealing, London W5 5JN and Unit 3, Wembley Park Blvd, London HA9 0HP (both open daily 7am-11pm)