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Here's Amazon's Next Big Growth Area

Stocks in this article: AMZNTGT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Amazon (AMZN) is seemingly hell-bent on owning every part of the consumer experience, in its quest to drive more users to its site. The next big area of opportunity? Food.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who rates Amazon shares "overweight" with a $420 price target, believes Amazon Fresh is the retail giant's next big driver to get more people buying their wares from Amazon, considering how large grocery spend in the U.S. is ($718 billion this year, according to Munster). Not only does Amazon get additional revenue from food sales, but Munster believes there are two other big areas of growth for the firm - an addition in general merchandise sales, and getting closer to same day delivery, something Amazon has been experimenting with, particularly with the announcement of its drone delivery system late last year.

Munster notes that Wall Street analysts are expecting Amazon's 2014 revenues to be $90 billion, which leaves ample room for revenue growth if Amazon Fresh really takes off. "In other words, grocery is the massive direct opportunity of Fresh," Munster wrote in the note.

Shares of Amazon were higher in Wednesday trading, gaining 1.5% to $369.54.

By introducing Amazon Fresh, which is available so far in three cities (Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles), Munster said Amazon is taking a page out of Target's (TGT) playbook. "This is taking a page out of Targets 'PFresh' concept which began in 2009 and added grocery to smaller Target stores to in part increase the frequency of visits to Target."

Right now, Amazon Fresh is limited in scope, but it's growing. By Munster's count, there are 65,000 SKUs (items) available in Los Angeles, but just 35,000 available in San Francisco and only 27,000 available in Seattle, with many of these being non-grocery items.

Amazon Fresh costs $299 per year to use, and allows consumers to get free same-day deliver on orders over $35. Included in that $299 is an Amazon Prime membership ($79 value). Amazon has recently talked about potentially raising the cost of Prime by $20 to $40.

Also See: Consumers Say No to a Higher Priced Amazon Prime

Though the potential revenue opportunity for Amazon Fresh is massive, Munster notes the service is only rated at 3.6 stars out of 5, based on a survey of 48 consumers. Munster notes there has been more positive commentary than negative commentary, but it's not for everyone. "Overall the positive commentary outweighs the negatives, but we do note that AmazonFresh is not for everyone and the ideal customer is a combination of: busy, loves convenience, and not money sensitive. Currently we believe AmazonFresh is a solid service that can provide value to lot of people, and as the service grows it will become a bigger part of the Amazon investment story."

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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