Amazon has tapped its global customer service chief, Tom Weiland, for the top role at the Amazon Fresh grocery delivery business as it gears up for nationwide expansion.

Weiland, who has run Amazon’s global customer service operations and technology since 2005, was recently named VP and general manager of Amazon Fresh, according to his LinkedIn profile. He replaces former Amazon Fresh VP Rick Batye, who retired.

Fresh is Amazon’s growing business that delivers fresh produce, meats and packaged groceries, along with tens of thousands of other products, to customers’ doorsteps within 24 hours of ordering. After testing and refining the service in Seattle for more than five years, Amazon began operating Fresh in Los Angeles and San Francisco last year. Grocery industry sources expect Amazon to start offering Fresh in anywhere from six to 20 new markets over the next 12 months.

Several sources expect one of the new Fresh markets to be located in the New York/New Jersey metro area, based on a combination of hints, including a recent food safety job listing, real estate acquisitions and the company’s attempts to recruit employees from New York-based competitor FreshDirect, these people said.

Industry observers believe one of Amazon’s main reasons for delivering groceries is that it’s a category of products that customers order frequently and one that will create enough sales volume to justify the expense of delivering a wide array of Amazon merchandise within one day.

CEO Jeff Bezos also made clear in his recent letter to shareholders that expanding Fresh is one of the company’s top priorities.

“We’ll continue our methodical approach — measuring and refining Amazon Fresh — with the goal of bringing this incredible service to more cities over time,” he said in the letter.

The placement of Amazon’s lead customer service exec atop the Fresh business is another sign of the growing importance of the initiative at the Seattle-based online retailer. Weiland has been with Amazon basically forever, joining the company way back in 1997 and working in several roles since then.

An Amazon spokeswoman did not immediately respond for a request for comment.




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