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Chicago to Get 2 Amazon Go Stores

Following reports that San Francisco and Chicago are the next two cities getting Amazon Go stores, sources have told the Chicago Tribune that the Windy City is getting not one, but two locations of the checkout-free concept.

According to the news outlet, Seattle-based Amazon has leased spaces for the stores in Chicago’s tallest building, Willis Tower, and in an office connected to Ogilvie Transportation Center, both sites located downtown, the Tribune reported. Both locations are known for their heavy foot traffic: Willis Tower claims to welcome approximately 25,000 people every day, while local commuter railroad operator Metra says it serves more than 106,000 people at Ogilvie daily.

A listing for an open Amazon Go managerial position in the Windy City went up April 19, with another listing, for a training lead associate, posting May 29. The original listing described the ideal candidate as someone willing to create a “vibrant store culture based on customer obsession, trust, respect, continuous learning and fun.” The newer listing listed the ideal candidate similarly, adding that the applicant should “thrive in planning and facilitating training for associates and store leaders,” and be “passionate about helping others be successful in their jobs.”

Curbed Chicago initially reported the news about an “Amazon store” coming to Chicago, noting in late February that the ecommerce giant had filed for a building permit. However, the permit cited a different downtown location from either of the two reported by the Tribune.

Amazon already has opened and operates a brick-and-mortar store in Chicago under its Amazon Books format. It's located on the city's North Side, in the Lakeview neighborhood.

The “just walk out” technology that makes Amazon Go’s store cashier-free uses the same innovation found in self-driving cars, employing computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning to automatically detect when products are removed from, or placed back on, shelves. Patrons download and check in via a mobile app, take what they want and walk out the door, where they are charged for the products they take with them. There are no lines or barcodes to be scanned in the process.

Before it could open the first store to the public and expand the concept, Amazon had to address several problems, Amazon Go VPs Dilip Kumar and Gianna Puerini shared in a March presentation at ShopTalk. These included pulling off the “just walk out” technology in a way that makes it seamless and effortless, developing algorithms that are beyond state-of-the-art for computer vision and machine learning to solve the problems of who took what, and creating the robust hardware and software infrastructure to support everything. Even retraining customers’ behavior when shopping and leaving a typical grocery store presented a challenge.

Amazon made news last month when it landed as No. 8 among the nation's top 50 grocers, according to Progressive Grocer’s 2018 Super 50 list. While it made its way onto the list by purchasing Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market last August, the news signals that one of grocers’ greatest worries in recent years is now officially a reality: Amazon is currently among the toughest competition in today’s brick-and-mortar grocery retail market. This is anticipated only to grow as its physical operations expand.

About the Author

Randy Hofbauer

Randy Hofbauer is the former digital and technology editor of Progressive Grocer. He has more than a decade of experience as a content strategist, researcher and marketer, almost all of it covering CPG retailing. His insights and work have been cited in a number of media outlets, including The New York Times, the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune, and he was named a finalist in the Software & Information Industry Association's 2018 Emerging Leader Awards. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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