Amazon.com selling veggies, eggs, more under pilot
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Amazon.com is going to the farm -- literally -- under a pilot program to sell fresh food like eggs, vegetables and fish.
The company that began in 1995 as the world's biggest bookstore confirmed on Thursday that it kicked off the program, AmazonFresh, in the Seattle, Washington, enclave Mercer Island by invitation only on Wednesday.
"It's up and running," said spokesman Craig Berman. "People are ordering and trucks are delivering." He would not speculate, however, on when the program would be expanded.
"When we feel we are ready to add neighborhoods and add more customers to the invite list, and we can provide those customers with a great experience then we will do so," he said.
Some of the items available on AmazonFresh include a bunch of organic carrots with leafy tops for $1.79 and a 5 ounce steak for $1.99.
Nonperishable items, already sold on Amazon.com, will also be available through AmazonFresh.
Daytime shipping is free with a $50 minimum purchase, while predawn shipping is free with a $25 minimum order. Delivery for purchases below minimums is $9.99. Customers may also pick up their goods at an assigned station.
"We have 12 of our own trucks that will deliver the products to customer doorsteps," Berman said. "We even bring them inside to your kitchen."
Berman said repeated requests from customers for perishable groceries prompted the pilot program.
The online grocery business is a difficult one, given the perishability of fresh food and the grocery industry's razor-thin profit margins.
During the height of the dot-com frenzy, companies like WebVan, HomeGrocer, ShopLink and Streamline opened their virtual doors only to shut down or be acquired by larger firms due to a public yet unsold on the idea of buying perishables online.
If AmazonFresh expands, it would be competing with online grocers Peapod.com and regional services such as FreshDirect.com or YourGrocer.com in the New York area.
Amazon, the second most popular e-commerce site behind eBay Inc, sells everything from books and digital cameras to cosmetics and lawnmowers on its main Web site, www.AmazonFresh.com.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage)
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