Amazon cuts jobs at Fresh grocery stores

People walk past an Amazon Fresh store in Washington, DC, on August 26, 2021.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon is cutting some jobs at its Fresh grocery stores, CNBC has confirmed.

The company said it’s restructuring the in-store staffing and operations model at its Amazon Fresh stores in the U.S., and as a result is eliminating its “zone lead” role. Zone leads are lower-level management positions, with responsibilities including oversight of specific store departments and assisting with training new employees.

“Like any retailer, we periodically assess our stores’ organizational needs and make decisions to increase efficiencies for our employees and deliver customer value,” Jessica Martin, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement. “As a result, we’ve decided to evolve our in-store staffing and operations model to better serve our customers and teams.”

Hundreds of staffers were let go as a result of the cuts, The Washington Post reported earlier. Amazon has 44 Fresh stores in eight states and Washington, D.C., according to its website

Fresh employees affected by the layoffs can look for new roles within the company or accept a severance payment, Amazon said.

Amazon has been determined to crack the grocery segment since the launch of its Fresh delivery service in 2007. It made a historic splash when it acquired upscale grocer Whole Foods Market in 2017 for $13.7 billion, Amazon’s biggest acquisition ever.

The company’s mix of grocery offerings grew increasingly complex once it launched a line of Go cashierless stores and a Fresh supermarket chain aimed at conventional shoppers. 

Earlier this year, Amazon said it would close some Fresh and Go stores as part of CEO Andy Jassy’s effort to rein in costs. Jassy has said Amazon’s strategy in physical grocery is to find a formula that resonates more with customers and “where we like the economics.”

Amazon said that to have a successful brick-and-mortar grocery business, the company has to establish a presence beyond Whole Foods, with a line of stores that are able to scale, while also being tailored toward selection, value and convenience.

The job cuts at Amazon Fresh come after the company initiated its most expansive layoffs in its history, eliminating roughly 27,000 employees since late last year. Staffers working on grocery technologies, as well as in the Fresh and Go units, were part of the layoffs, CNBC previously reported.

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