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The Amazon grocery service posing a new threat to supermarkets has been hiring in Australia for a year

AmazonFresh trucks sit parked at a warehouse on June 27, 2013 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

US online retail giant Amazon is recruiting highly skilled workers in Australia for fresh food delivery operations, in an apparent confirmation of its ambitious plans for the local retail market.

The company’s website currently has more than 100 job vacancies listed for Australia. While Amazon’s cloud computing business Amazon Web Services has had a local presence for several years, there is a range of software development roles in Brisbane for AmazonFresh — further evidence that the company’s much-speculated entry into the Australian grocery scene is imminent.

“As a member of a team focused on innovation, you will responsible for building a system to support a new and confidential AmazonFresh initiative that will help revolutionise the grocery shopping experience,” said one job ad for a software development engineer.

While the internet giant has never officially confirmed or denied speculation that it would open up operations in Australia, there have been leaked reports that it aims to “destroy” local retailers by undercutting their prices by as much as 30%.

Profit margins at the major Australian supermarkets have been under pressure for years as German low-cost entrant Aldi has expanded its market share in Australia, while the fashion sector has also been squeezed by the arrival of global giants like H&M, Uniqlo and Zara.

Richard Goyder, group managing director of Wesfarmers, which owns Coles supermarkets, warned retailers last year that Amazon had the capacity to “eat all our breakfasts, lunches and dinners” unless the sector proved itself more competitive and innovative.

Amazon has not responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.

The first Australian job ad that specifically mentioned AmazonFresh — for a software development engineer — seems to be from February last year, while the rest were posted from September to October. All Australian AmazonFresh positions are located in Brisbane.

And as a strong hint applicants will actually be working on a new Australian product, several positions call for “experience taking a project from inception through launch”.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who famously says ‘your margin is my opportunity’. Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images.

AmazonFresh gradually rolled out from 2007 in the US, where it costs $US14.99 per month of unlimited delivery for those with Prime membership, which costs $US99 per year. The service last year launched in its first location outside the US — in London — for £6.99 per month for Prime members.

There is no Australian version of Amazon Prime membership, although Australians may subscribe to Prime Video, which is just the streaming entertainment service. Prime Video had a surprise launch in Australia in November, yet another indication that Amazon is intent on rolling out its full suite of services here.

The two major Australian supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles, both run online grocery shopping sites, as well as smaller players like Harris Farm and internet-only retailers like Kogan.

The best guess for the launch of AmazonFresh in Australia is late this year. A June report in The New Daily reported an inside source as saying “no later than 2017 to early 2018”, while a November AFR report stated that the general retail launch was postponed from March to September this year so that it could wait until the grocery operations were ready.

Amazon already runs an “Australian” website with the .com.au domain, but it has been a virtual store that has its orders fulfilled overseas. Aside from Australia, the company currently runs 13 international websites: USA, Canada, Mexico, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Japan, China, India and Brazil.

When the Australian website turns into a genuine local operation, it will reportedly use the same brands as other regions — Prime, Prime Now and PrimeFresh. The AFR has previously reported that distribution centres would be set up in every state, and even some physical retail stores for rural centres.

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