Amazon Fresh stores have gone stale

“Zombie” properties languish, openings stalled since September

Amazon's Andy Jassy with Amazon Fresh store front (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty, Google maps)
Amazon's Andy Jassy with Amazon Fresh store front (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty, Google maps)

Amazon Fresh is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of several communities stuck with “zombie” stores, waiting indefinitely for them to open.

Grocery stores that appear ready to open but sit closed are accumulating for Amazon, The Information reported. Local officials and landlords spread across the country are in the dark about whether the stores will ever open.

Amazon launched its brand of full-sized grocery stores without checkout lines in September 2020, proceeding to open about two stores every month over the following two years. The brand topped out at 44 locations in the United States and 19 in the United Kingdom.

Things seem to have ground to a halt for Amazon Fresh, though.

Since September, the company hasn’t opened a new Fresh store. There are at least seven locations that appear to be completely built out, but haven’t opened. There are another 26 locations in development and the fate of those projects is unclear. The Detroit Free Press this week reported two locations are headed for Michigan.

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The so-called “zombie” stores span several states, with one in a Philadelphia suburb, another in Southern California, one in Staten Island and three in New Jersey. In Holmdel, New Jersey, The Information observed weeks of missed package notices piling on the door.

It’s cheaper for the company to keep the stores in place while not operating, rather than ditch the stores altogether. While the company is on the hook for rent, maintenance and taxes, shutting down a store could also force Amazon to pay a fee for a lease withdrawal or severance to hired employees.

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The physical stores department of Amazon has underseen a lot of changes in recent months, as has the rest of the company. Corporate retail teams are believed to be in danger of being laid off in 2023.

It’s been a challenging year for Amazon’s efforts in the physical retail realm. The company announced in March it would close all 68 of its bookstores and pop-up shops. At the time, the company appeared interested in diving deeper into its grocery offerings, which also include Amazon Go and Whole Foods.

— Holden Walter-Warner

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