Something strange is happening in the township of Woodbridge, New Jersey, just 20 miles outside of Manhattan. It started when a real estate development partner of Amazon.com purchased a nearly one-million square foot warehouse. The previous tenant was a grocery wholesaler and so the building is equipped with refrigeration. Now Amazon (AMZN) has quietly posted job listings for facility and operation managers in the area.
Last week a research analyst put the pieces together and came to the conclusion that Amazon.com is going to expand AmazonFresh into New York City. That means Amazon.com will be taking orders and providing same-day delivery to the nation's largest market. That may not mean much yet, but it suggests that the way eight million people buy groceries is about to change forever.
The vision goes well beyond just groceries. Groceries are a Trojan Horse. The dirty secret of Amazon is that it really doesn't distinguish between a head of lettuce and a big screen TV. If Amazon can pull off same-day grocery delivery in NYC, it ostensibly means consumers can order anything online and receive it the same day. By logical extension, that means Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, is on the cusp of rendering every retailer on earth obsolete.
When Amazon.com went public in 1997, Bezos promised shareholders that the company had ambitions well beyond merely becoming the "world's largest bookstore." Bezos didn't outline exactly what that meant, but he vowed that the company would be run in the interest of pursuing opportunity rather than profits. True to his word, Bezos has built a $61 billion-a-year company that controls 5% of all e-commerce and earns next to nothing.
While the critics howl about Amazon stock being overpriced, Bezos has used cheap funding from Wall Street to plow money back into the business at every turn. He has rewarded investors by endlessly expanding the company into different product categories and services. From books, Amazon moved into home electronics, sporting goods, apparel and Kindle tablets and apps. Skeptics predicted that no would buy such things online — Bezos has proved them wrong.