The e-retailer puts out a fulfillment call that could, by one estimate, increase its warehouse workforce by 10%.
Prime Pantry allows Amazon Prime members to pack and ship a box full of grocery items for a $5.99 shipping fee, plus the cost of the products selected. As a shopper adds an item, Amazon.com indicates how much room remains in the 4-cubic-foot box.
Amazon.com Inc. launched Prime Pantry, a grocery-shopping digital storefront that allows Prime customers to virtually fill a 4-cubic-foot box with up to 45 pounds of items from the e-retailer’s new pantry section. That box is then delivered—as empty or full as the customer desires—for a $5.99 shipping fee, plus the cost of the items in the box.
The pantry program is offered exclusively to Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 for free, two-day shipping on many items, plus access to e-books and streaming videos. Amazon says it counts more than 20 million households as Prime members.
The company sees this as a value-add to Prime membership. "Prime Pantry adds greater selection and convenience for members who still receive all of the Prime benefits," an Amazon spokeswoman says. "Prime Pantry allows Prime members to shop a wider range of items including heavy and bulky items such as popular soft drinks, bottled water, a new range of paper and laundry products in popular pack sizes and conveniently sized food and personal care products and more that are cost prohibitive to ship for free."
Prime Pantry appears in its own category page on Amazon.com. Once a customer adds a Prime Pantry item to a cart, a box is started. With every addition to the cart, Prime Pantry indicates in a pop-up window or on the checkout page how full the box is. For example, adding a 12-pack of Coca Cola cans results in a box that is 23.2% full. Add a 12-ounce bag of Lay’s chips, and the box is now 28.2% full. Amazon warns the customer when the box is nearing capacity. If a customer goes over the capacity of the box, Amazon will automatically start a new box.
Prime Pantry items do not appear elsewhere on Amazon.com. When searching the e-commerce site for that 10-ounce bag of Lay’s chips, for example, a Prime Pantry icon appears next to the one available in the pantry, along with other buying options. For instance, a customer could buy the same bag of chips from Lay’s for $8.77 through Amazon’s marketplace, but that 12-pack of Coca Cola is not offered through other sellers. A shopper can filter search results by Prime Pantry.
Amazon’s list of new products includes fridge packs of popular soft drinks, Pringles, Cheerios, Kashi cereals, Pantene Shampoo and 6-packs of Bounty paper towels. An Amazon spokeswoman says the company added hundreds of new products. “Prime Pantry allows Prime members to shop a wider range of products, including heavy and bulky items, all in popular pack sizes that are costprohibitive to ship for free,” Amazon says on the Prime Pantry web site.
The Prime Pantry service is distinct from AmazonFresh, which delivers perishable grocery items to customers in select cities for a $299 annual fee, which includes free delivery for orders of more than $35. Prime Pantry does not deliver fresh grocery items such as produce or dairy. However, an Amazon spokewoman points out, AmazonFresh is only available in select cities while Prime Pantry is available in 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).
The pantry launch comes just a day after Amazon announced it will soon begin licensing content from premium TV channel Home Box Office (HBO) for its Amazon Instant Video service, a perk for Prime members, as well as linking its Amazon Fire TV to HBO’s streaming service, HBO GO.