Illinois' first Amazon Fresh store to open Thursday in Naperville
Technology and convenience are at the center of the state's first Amazon Fresh grocery store, slated to open Thursday in Naperville, company leaders said.
The roughly 35,000-square-foot facility at 3116 S. Route 59 will offer new Alexa features to help patrons manage shopping lists and navigate the aisles, said Jeff Helbling, vice president of Amazon Fresh Stores. A contactless shopping experience, called Dash Cart, will enable customers to skip the checkout line if they choose, he said, and free pickup and delivery options are available for Amazon Prime members.
"The store is designed from the ground up to be seamless, whether you're shopping in-store or online," Helbling said. "We've taken our decades of Amazon operations experience to ensure we can deliver consistently low prices for all customers."
Amazon rolled out its new grocery store concept this year at four Los Angeles-area locations, he said. The Naperville store will be the company's fifth to open overall and the first of four planned in the Chicago suburbs.
A timeline is not yet available for stores in Schaumburg at Golf and Roselle roads, Bloomingdale near Army Trail Road and Gary Avenue, or in Oak Lawn, Helbling said, though the employee recruitment and hiring process is ongoing.
The Naperville location has been operating as a "dark store" since July, offering online ordering and delivery of Amazon Fresh products, Helbling said. That service will remain available when the store opens Thursday for curbside pickup and in-person shopping.
"I've been really proud and humbled by the work of that team serving the community during this (COVID-19) crisis," he said. "We're all excited about opening our doors next week."
Safety protocols throughout the store include capacity limits, one-way aisles, floor markings, plexiglass barriers and masks provided upon entry, Helbling said. Its technological components "add an additional dimension of contactless shopping," he said.
With new Dash Cart, for example, shoppers scan a QR code from their Amazon app before perusing the store. The smart cart identifies and calculates the cost of groceries or other items as they're selected, Helbling said.
Customers can bypass the checkout line and leave through a special Dash Cart lane, at which point their account will be charged for the items in the cart.
A traditional checkout experience also will be available, he said.
"Whenever you ask somebody why they pick any individual grocer, it always comes down to the fundamental combination of, 'There's a product I like and prices that are good, and it's convenient for me,'" Helbling said. "Essentially, what we aspire to do is compete and win in all three of those (areas)."
The Naperville store is expected to offer produce, seafood, meat and prepared food made fresh daily, as well as an assortment of national, local and Amazon-exclusive brands. Featured Chicago-area companies include Oberweis Dairy, Turano Baking Company and Revolution Brewing.
The store is creating "a couple hundred" jobs with a $15-per-hour starting wage and benefits, Helbling said. To help those in need, Amazon Fresh is donating surplus food to local food banks, which have so far received the equivalent of more than 135,000 meals since the Naperville store opened for online delivery, he said.
"We look forward to doing more on this front as we grow in the Chicagoland area," Helbling said.
Amazon Fresh will be open daily 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The first hour will be limited to customers who are 60 and older, those with disabilities or those considered high risk.