NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Amazon (AMZN) raised the stakes when it comes to getting packages right to your doorstep as quickly as possible. The company's new service -- called Amazon Prime Now -- promises one-hour deliveries of what the company terms "daily essentials." Amazon's first test market is midtown Manhattan.
Prime Now is being introduced as a new feature for only for Amazon Prime members. The service promises one- or two-hour delivery of "tens of thousands of daily essentials." A promotional video shows packages being delivered by bicycle and subway-riding messengers (in perfect weather conditions).
The new service offers more than 25,000 essential products such as paper towels, shampoo, laundry detergent, toys, books, batteries and even cables for connecting electronic products. In a quick survey, we found hundreds of available items in categories such as appliances, automotive, baby, beauty, CDs and vinyl recordings, cell phones, office products, pet supplies and TVs. When it comes to groceries we found a number of different types of coffee, tea and soda items but no fresh food/perishables like milk, bread, meat, fruits or vegetables.
Shares of Amazon were off 1.3% to $295 in late-morning trading in New York.
Ordering is accomplished through a new mobile app downloadable from Amazon's Appstore as well as Apple's (AAPL) iOS App Store and Google's (GOOG) Android Play. Once the order is placed, processing is handled in one of Amazon's new local "fulfillment centers." The first operational setup is inside the company's's recently leased space on 34th Street near the Empire State building. According to the the Prime Now Web site, the first area to benefit from this new service will be in zip code 10001.
Deliveries can be made from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Two-hour delivery is free but Amazon will charge $7.99 for the speedy one-hour service. That's in addition to the yearly $99 Amazon Prime membership fee.
Amazon isn't the only company vying to get goods and services to you as quickly as possible. Google offers Shopping Express which promises same-day delivey of items for either $5 each or $99/year. Google can also help with fast delivery of items from Barnes & Noble (BKS) , Staples (SPLS) , Toys R Us and Target (TGT) , among others.
In addition to its new Prime Now, Amazon still offers same-day delivery for non-Prime shoppers living in eligible zip codes within a number of U.S. cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. It charges a flat-fee of $5.99 for each same-day delivery.
Amazon plans to expand its Prime Now Manhattan service to other Manhattan neighborhoods in the near future and promises to announce additional delivery cities in the next year.
"There are times when you can't make it to the store and other times when you simply don't want to go," said Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations. "There are so many reasons to skip the trip and now Prime members in Manhattan can get the items they need delivered in an hour or less," he added.
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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