Last October, I started to turn negative on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Jeff Bezos, and by extension, Amazon stock. It wasn’t anything of a financial nature that soured my opinion of the eCommerce behemoth. Instead, it was the way it allegedly treats its warehouse employees that got me all riled up and cynical about the company.
Now, you have to remember that in February last year, I said that Amazon stock would hit $10,000 sooner than you think. It was definitely on my buy list.
“Nothing Amazon does surprises me anymore. It’s got a great business model and is using technology to innovate old-school industries like grocery, convenience stores, healthcare — the list goes on,” I wrote. “I could actually see Amazon stock hit $10,000 within five years, two-and-half years sooner than I suggested last January. However, it’s got to nail at least one of these initiatives to have a chance.”
One of the initiatives I was referring to was Amazon Go, the cashier-less convenience stores it’s been opening in Seattle and elsewhere. I quoted RBC analyst Mark Mahaney who believed the opportunity for Amazon was huge.
I agreed wholeheartedly with Mahaney’s assessment.
So, the fact that Amazon Go just opened its first full-size (10,400 square feet) grocery store in Seattle has my head spinning. And here’s why.
Good for Humanity
You’re probably wondering how a grocery store can be useful for humanity.
Well, given Amazon’s lousy PR on the HR front, the fact that it’s opening a grocery store that’s about one-quarter the size of the traditional footprint, portends to a moment in time when Americans right-size their grocery shopping experience.
Do we really need a grocery store that’s almost as big as an NFL football field? I don’t think so. Apparently, neither does Jeff Bezos.
The second humanity-saving aspect of this right-sized, cashier-less grocery store, is the fact that there will still be human employees in the store, both to help stock shelves, and answer customer queries. According to CNBC, approximately 24 employees will work in the 10,400 square foot store.
I have no idea if Amazon plans to eliminate jobs in the future as technology enables it to operate these stores more frugally. Still, in the near-term, the fact that it’s employing this many people ought to be good news for those fearful the company is plotting to eliminate all the retail jobs in America.
But back to the footprint for a moment.
While most investors likely focus on the technology used to operate Amazon’s cashier-less convenience and full-size grocery stores, I see a smaller footprint as a real selling feature to pull in customers. I can’t be the only one who gets a migraine traipsing through a 145,000 square foot Costco (NASDAQ:COST), and I’m a huge fan.
North Americans do everything outlandishly large. At some point, that’s going to come back to bite us. I don’t think anyone is going to starve with just 5,000 products to choose from.
“Here, we’re located closer to the customers’ home. Our selection is really about groceries and what’s for dinner tonight,” said Amazon’s vice president of physical stores, Cameron Janes.
“We’re really focused on that convenience aspect, in and out, really quickly.”
The best part is it won’t offer store pickup or on-demand delivery. Customers will come in, get their shopping done quickly, and get on with their days.
And that’s possible because 10,400 square feet is much easier to navigate quickly than a store four times as large.
Imagine if we all cut down our real estate footprints by 75%. The world would be a more breathable space.
The Bottom Line on Amazon Stock
Jeff Bezos’ company is forever going to play with my emotions.
For Christmas, I got my mother a second-generation Amazon Fire Cube. She’s getting older and her eyesight’s not very good, so I thought this could help her watch TV, etc., without having to strain her eyes to do so.
The only problem is it doesn’t seem to allow for Canadian cable providers. Without that step, it appears to render the TV portion of Fire Cube useless. I should probably check with fellow InvestorPlace contributor Brad Moon, who also lives in Canada and is an electronics guru, before I decide to toss it in the garbage, but color me frustrated.
Sorry for digressing. I can’t help myself.
At the end of the day, as I’ve said in the past if you can put up with the negative news stories about Amazon’s treatment of some of its employees, it’s one of the best long-term holds you can buy.
With the introduction of the Amazon Go full-size grocery store, I just might be convinced that its heart is in the right place, after all.
Although it’s not cheap, it’s time for me to put Amazon back on my buy list. If anything changes on the Amazon Go front that I don’t approve of, you can be sure I’ll mention it.
Will Ashworth has written about investments full-time since 2008. Publications where he’s appeared include InvestorPlace, The Motley Fool Canada, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and several others in both the U.S. and Canada. He particularly enjoys creating model portfolios that stand the test of time. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At the time of this writing Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.