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Originally published January 28, 2013 at 7:00 AM | Page modified January 28, 2013 at 3:19 PM

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Local merchants savor AmazonFresh exposure

AmazonFresh has joined with local restaurants and stores to offer ready-to-cook meals and specialty food items.

Seattle Times business reporter

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While AmazonFresh sells most things found at a supermarket, the online grocer recently joined with local restaurants and stores to set itself apart.

A new feature, called Seattle Spotlight, offers ready-to-cook meals and specialty food items from the likes of Pike Place Chowder, Samurai Noodle and A la Mode Pies in Phinney Ridge.

Amazon picks up and bundles orders with other grocery purchases and delivers them to customers’ doorsteps at a prearranged time. It takes a cut from each sale of 20 to 35 percent.

Local merchants say it helps them reach more customers online than they could on their own.

“They have a demographic that is Eastside-slash-Redmond,” said participant Dale Sherrow, co-owner of Seattle Caviar in the Lake Union area. “It’s great exposure to a segment of the e-commerce population that we perhaps would not be exposed to.”

Snoqualmie chocolatier Mary Kelley, who joined Fresh last summer, sells assorted truffles, caramels and other items for $8 to $36. At first, she worried about being overwhelmed by orders, but “so far, that hasn’t happened,” she said.

Kelley, the sole proprietor of Blue Streak Chocolates, said Fresh accounts for about half of her business.

But Russell Flint, owner of Rain Shadow Meats on Capitol Hill, sold hand-cut steaks and sausages through Fresh for only a few months before deciding in November that his business was not well-suited to the site.

“They wanted everything to be at a set price, and we were either losing money or cheating the customer,” Flint said. “There’s no way we can cut exactly three-quarters of a pound of steak every time.”

Flint said he also struggled to cover Amazon’s fees and turn a profit, adding, “The volume I anticipated wasn’t there.”

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

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