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Amazon Fresh: Not for those who love to cook

Amazon opened this Amazon Fresh grocery store in Naperville, IL, in December. The company has two more in the works for Illinois, and recently announced two stores in the Seattle area.

Editor’s note: This is a continuation of Richard Smoley’s column discussing Amazon and the dunnhumby Retailer Performance Index. Read more here. 

I like to cook. I have a lot of grocery shopping options in my area, and I have explored them, if just for the novelty.

Grocery stores do not mix it up that much on a regular basis, apart from the occasional festive popcorn and chips endcap. So when my husband asked me to check out the new Amazon Fresh BB #:283186 store that recently opened in Naperville, IL, I was game.

The first the thing I noticed was how many employees there were. The store was hopping with them, and they were young, energetic, pleasant, and helpful. They sped past me at a fast clip, almost spinning my cart around as I went. The store has an entire fleet of special carts specifically created to fulfill online orders.

Everything was very clean, tidy, and tightly packed in rows. The produce section looked good. Though, oddly, there were quite a few holes. Why were there absolutely no Anjou pears at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon?

Actually, it’s something I noticed about the store in general: there were significant gaps in their merchandise throughout.

The meat section was rather spare and mainly contained Amazon’s brand of meats and chicken, the Fresh brand. I am not familiar with it (and frankly do not feel inclined to purchase something untested).

Most of the store was stocked like any other and had every other brand I was used to seeing, though in lesser quantities. (I assume that the employees have to constantly restock).

There was no bakery to be spoken of; they ship in whatever halfway acceptable baked goods they have daily, much like a Target. Unlike Target, however, the store did have a deli offering salads and sandwiches (though I found this area very unappetizing compared to other markets I have visited). And I found the Amazon Fresh cheese section really quite embarrassing.

I will say the prices were good: I spent half as much as I did at another market last week for the same groceries. (Admittedly, I purchased less meat, cheese, and bakery this time.) Prices weren’t quite as good for organic items.

Here’s the thing: this is not a store created for someone (like me!) who really enjoys food and cooking, as shown by the lack of discoverability of new items and the absence of delight with which the food is displayed.

But there is that wall of the twenty top best-selling items at Amazon. It is all for convenience and cost savings.

If I had to sum up the experience, it would be like grocery shopping in an Amazon warehouse in the midst of employees filling out orders.

But hey—at checkout I received a $10 coupon for my next trip if I spend $35 or more!

The problem is, I don’t want to go there again.

Nicole Krier Smoley is a stay-at-home mom in Winfield, IL.