Did Amazon Pull Out of Fresh Store in Brookfield? One Former Town Official Comments
Amazon Fresh stores have a slogan that is featured on their in-store signage that reads: "Just Walk Out Shopping" and that may be exactly what they're doing in Brookfield.
The chatter around the Amazon Fresh project in Brookfield is that it's over, after never serving a single customer. Former Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn joined the I-95 Morning Show on Wednesday (6/21/23) to discuss his decision to run for First Selectman again, but it was his comments on Amazon Fresh that really stood out.
You know what I'm curious about because we haven't spoken to you, what do you think about this Amazon Fresh debacle?
"Yeah, my understanding is they pulled out completely. From what I heard, I have a friend who has a friend who works at Amazon, you know a senior executive, from what I heard and this is just hearsay, is that Amazon has made a decision to restructure their entire Amazon Fresh product and they're just completely pulling back. And, they put I know they put a few hundred thousand dollars into that store, it's ready to go, yet it sits empty."
I forget where I read it, it was a real estate publication that said it's cheaper for them, at the moment at least, to leave these empty stores that they'd started than to actually pull out completely. I'm not suggesting you're wrong but that is something I read and I don't know how that is possible but that is something I heard.
"Well, the only way that could be possible is when they're paying rent already and you know with typical economics and finance, sometimes it is less expensive to operate a factory at a loss, right? Because you get all of your variable costs in a business, so the materials, etc, the machines, the electricity to run the machines and you're selling it for $10 and it costs you 11 but if you didn't sell it at all it costs you $4 a month just to keep the factory, you know pay the taxes, pay your mortgage, etc. So, sometimes it pays to operate at a loss, I know that doesn't make a lot of sense but you lose less money. But I can't understand that because it's mostly a building where it's completely automated, right? You put your credit card in, you walk in, you pick something up, you walk out. It automatically charges you so all you have is people stocking shelves, right? No cashiers, probably one of two managers, I don't understand it, it seems very odd to me."
The only theory I could come up with is that some part of this tech isn't ready, but they've been operating a few of these stores in big cities so I don't know how that is possible.
"Yeah, they have and I've read they work really, really well so I don't know how that is possible either. I'm hoping they change their mind and come in, it's a perfect location with BJ's and Costco and the Federal Road businesses, the amount of cars and people we get every weekend is just phenomenal."
Taking Dunn's phrasing into account and pairing that with the things I've read, it sound more like Amazon is rethinking the entire playbook rather than walking out on Brookfield.
I was able to go back and find the article I was citing. The piece was published in December of 2022 by "The Real Deal" and read:
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.
The same article said:
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.
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.
The Real Deal published another article on Amazon Fresh in March of 2023 which said Amazon announced they'd be closing 8 of their "Go" locations. The article also made mention of existing zombie stores, it reads:
Amazon Fresh is already looking stale, however, leaving many communities coping with so-called “zombie” stores ready to open, but remaining closed. The company appeared to stop opening Amazon Fresh stores in September, leaving seven stores ready to open and 26 stuck in the development pipeline.
In January of 2023, I wrote an article predicting the Brookfield store was unlikely to open called: "When Will the Amazon Fresh Store Open In Brookfield? Maybe Never." A few months later, I checked in with the public and ran a poll asking them if they believed the store would ever open in Brookfield. I released the results in an April 2023 article called: "Brookfield Residents Don't Believe Amazon Fresh Will Open, Ever."
While the sample was small (80), the numbers spoke for themselves and amounted to zero confidence.
Over 97% of the respondents said "No." It's no wonder we have no belief in this project, the local media chatter started in 2020. "Just Walk Out?" Don't worry, we will.
Amazon Fresh...Deals so good, they'll knock your eye out.
I mean socks off.
Amazon Fresh was not the only issue we covered with the Former Selectman, we also discussed the current administration which Dunn was critical of. You can listen to the complete interview below.