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Amazon might open thousands of its grab-and-go stores over the next three years

The e-commerce giant is reportedly considering as many as 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021.

You have to scan the Amazon Go app on your phone to enter the store. 
Shara Tibken/CNET

Amazon's cashier-free stores may be everywhere within three years.

The retail giant is considering plans to open as many as 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021, according to Bloomberg. The convenience store concept, which works with its own app, allows customers to shop without having to wait in checkout lines.

Scan the Amazon Go app when you walk into one of the stores, pick out whatever you want -- cameras track the items -- and then simply walk out. The bill is paid automatically through the app.

Amazon declined to comment.

The report of new Amazon Go stores follows the opening of two new Amazon Go locations, in Seattle and Chicago, earlier this month. The company opened its first Amazon Go stores earlier this year and its second last month. Amazon is also planning to open one in New York.

Going from just four locations to 3,000 in a few years would constitute a massive jump and make Amazon a leading convenience store operator, rivaling 7-Eleven, Walgreens and CVS. The stores could also help Amazon become a bigger player in the pharmacy business because it agreed to buy PillPack, an online drugstore, in June

That many new stores could change people's expectations for convenience stores, forcing other retailers to adopt a cashier-less model. It would also change Amazon's business, putting more focus on its physical stores. That would be a turnaround for Amazon, which helped popularize online shopping and is blamed for the closure of hundreds of retail stores on Main Streets throughout America.

Speculation of a widespread rollout of Amazon Go isn't the first time the company has been rumored to have plotted a massive expansion into brick-and-mortar stores.

In late 2016, stories spread that Amazon was planning to build 2,000 grocery stores. That never happened and Amazon issued a rare denial of the rumor. About a year later, the company agreed to buy Whole Foods, which has fewer than 500 locations.

Additionally, retail experts say it would take a lot of money and time to site, develop and staff thousands of new locations, making it unlikely Amazon could create that many stores from scratch in just a few years. 

Walgreens, for example, has about 8,100 US locations. It was founded in 1901.

There were also high expectations for Amazon Books, the company's physical bookstores. After opening its first location in 2016, Amazon is now up to 16 locations. Two more are planned.

Correction: Sept. 19, 4:32 p.m. PT: Fixes the number of Amazon Go stores in operation and when they first opened.

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