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Monday, July 28, 2008

Amazon starts delivering wine, beer

AmazonFreshLocally-based retailers take note: E-commerce behemoth amazon.com has begun delivering wine and beer.

But there's no need to panic — yet — since those deliveries are only made by AmazonFresh, which is available solely in selected Seattle-area neighborhoods. The service, which has been very well received by Seattleites, works like this: Customers go online to shop, and their orders are delivered the next day by an Amazon truck in neatly-packed plastic totes which are picked up when the next order is delivered or at another time specified by the customer. Pre-dawn delivery is available, and delivery is free with a minimum order of $30 or more. Prices are reportedly comparable to those of regular groceries, and the product quality is high.

In case you're thinking "Oh, that couldn't happen here," why not? Bear in mind that Amazon is building a 600,000 square foot distribution center in Anson, the Duke Realty development near Whitestown. Duke, and Amazon, chose that far-northwest location at least in part for its easy access to I-65.

Indiana law says that licensed retailers may deliver alcoholic beverages as long as the deliveries are made by an employee of the retailer and not by a common carrier, which effectively limits local merchants’ delivery areas (see this previous post for more about all that). While at least one Indiana business operating on the ”better to ask forgiveness than permission” philosophy is shipping via common carrier, most have taken the conservative approach and are operating within the letter of the law.

While an AmazonFresh service would be a boon to busy consumers, smaller local retailers (and that would be all of them) would be hard-pressed to compete. Amazon’s new distribution center is scheduled to be completed in 2010, so there's no time like the present for the Indiana Retail Council and the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers to set aside their differences and pressure the Indiana General Assembly to pass legislation that will enable their members to compete.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:34 AM

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