Amazon trying out lockers for delivering your purchases

Aug 22, 2012

If you’ve bought something recently on Amazon.com, you may have noticed it’s testing a new way to deliver packages. The Internet retailer has quietly installed non-descript lockers where you can pick up an order, rather than having it sent to a personal address.

The pilot program is available in four cities including Seattle.

7-11 stores are a major partner and the deal points to that chain’s evolution as well.

You may have stumbled upon the lockers in a 7-11 store or other location, but you won’t have heard anyone from Amazon.com talking about them. The company is staying mum, aside from what’s on its website.

But if you place an order in Seattle, New York, Washington DC or London, the lockers will show up as a shipping option. It allows the company to better serve customers who might shy away from an online purchase because they don’t have a secure place for delivery. Others might want to use it for receiving items they don’t want other people to know about – adult magazines for example…or a surprise for a loved one.

For 7-11, it’s a new way to attract and serve customers, who might also grab a pack of gum or a Slurpee. Analyst David Portalatin says declining profits from sales of gas and cigarettes has led to more offerings in convenience stores.

“In recent years, margin erosion has taken place that makes it really important for convenience stores to branch out.”

Financial services are an area where they continue to branch out  – you can cash checks at Vcom machines or pick up a preloaded Paypal card along with that bag of ice.

“Really, financial services kiosks have been around in convenience for quite some time, originally serving largely the unbanked population – you know, those that trade largely in cash?”  

Now, with the mortgage mess coloring consumers’ preferences, some are using the kiosks to side-step banks. There’s also a new company working with 7-11 on a Smartphone app for cashless payments.

“They have the best real estate in America. They’re the closest to the consumer. They exist in a word because they’re more convenient. So, anything that they can find to put in a relatively small box, that generates traffic, that creates margin opportunities is certainly going to have some appeal to consumers, simply because it’s quicker and easier.”

Some 7-11 store owners have opted not to take on the Amazon Lockers, because they take up space needed for other convenience items.

At a 7-11 on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill, the lockers take up most of the south wall, near the lottery kiosk. To get your item, you’d just walk in with a special code from Amazon.com, and type it in to a keypad.

Anecdotal reporting indicates they’re not getting a lot of use.

In Seattle and Bellevue there are 11 locations. Three are at 7-11s, which are open 24 hours. The other 8 are mostly in shopping malls or on Amazon.com’s campus in South Lake Union.