Technology

Permits connect Amazon to former New Seasons site in Seattle in latest physical retail expansion

The former New Seasons Market in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Amazon is named in electrical permits for improvements to the former New Seasons Market grocery store in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, signaling the likely further expansion of the e-commerce giant’s grocery footprint in its hometown.

The company declined to comment in response to GeekWire’s inquiry about its plans for the site, but the project code in the permits, “Amazon MAC8,” is consistent with the internal naming conventions for Amazon Fresh Grocery stores.

That means it likely won’t be an Amazon Go Grocery store. Those high-tech stores use sensors, scales and machine learning to track what shoppers put in their carts, allowing them to walk out without going through a traditional checkout line. Retrofitting an existing store with the technology required for an Amazon Go store would be a major project.

The first Amazon Fresh grocery store opened in California. (Amazon Photo)

The more traditional Amazon Fresh Grocery stores offer the ability to use a high-tech grocery cart to speed up checkout, but still provide traditional checkout lines with cashiers. New Seasons Market, the prior occupant of the site, had been the subject of repeated unionization efforts, so a shift to Amazon’s cashier-less model at this location would have been an ironic twist.

Elsewhere in Seattle, QFC said this week that it would be closing two stores, in the Capitol Hill and Wedgwood neighborhoods, citing the economic impact of a new Seattle ordinance requiring large grocery businesses to pay their workers an extra $4/hour in hazard pay during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Seasons opened the Ballard store, at 951 NW Ballard Way, in May 2018. Its Portland-based parent company announced the closure of the store in December 2019 as part of a larger merger of regional grocery chains.

The location is part of what could be known as Grocery Alley on the east side of the Ballard neighborhood, with a Fred Meyer, PCC Natural Market, Trader Joes and Amazon Fresh Pickup location all within walking distance.

Amazon has opened nine Amazon Fresh grocery stores, in California and Illinois, since the inaugural location debuted in Woodland Hills, Calif., in August last year. The company has confirmed plans for Amazon Fresh stores in the Seattle area: one in Bellevue, Wash., as first reported by GeekWire; and another in Seattle’s Central District at 23rd and Jackson.

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