The concept of checkout free stores is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, as supermarkets look towards technology to be the future of customer experience and convenience.
The technology used in stores utilises in-store cameras, artificial intelligence, weight sensors and apps to identify products that customers take from shelf; this means they don’t have to scan as they go, and can leave without checking out.
Whilst cashier-free stores have only recently arrived in the UK retail space, they are well established in China and South Korea, as well as, similar technology being used at festivals and sports stadiums.
The stores seem to be positioned at demographics such as millennial parents, who are looking to get in and out and waste as little time as possible. Also, aimed at Generation Z who stereotypically want to have as little interaction with store staff as possible – building on the popularity of self-checkouts.
So, who are the retailers trialling these stores?
Amazon, unsurprisingly, was the first retailer to launch a completely check-out free store. The internet giant is quickly taking over the retail industry, with every man, woman and their dog seemingly signed up to Amazon prime! Now Amazon has not only launched brick and mortar stores, but done so in a technology advanced fashion.
Launching their first store in Ealing, London back in March 2021, Amazon revolutionised the UK shopping environment with this Amazon Fresh UK Store. The chain hopes to have expanded to 250 checkout free stores across the UK by 2025.
Amazon uses it’s own technology to make this shopper experience possible and seems to be the thought leader for this innovation.
Supermarket big player, Tesco, followed in Amazon’s footsteps, launching their ‘GetGo’ store in London’s High Holborn, in October 2021. The retailer uses ‘Trigo’ technology to track what products are being picked up by customers, allowing them to walk out without scanning or heading to a check-out.
Swiftly after Tesco’s launch, Sainsbury’s followed suit launching their first ‘Smartshop Pick & Go’ in Holborn Circus, London in November 2021. SmartShop Pick & Go is using Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, which provides shoppers with a fast, efficient, and seamless way to shop.
Aldi are the most recent retailer to launch a checkout free store, as well as being the first discounter to dive into this technology. They opened their first checkout free store In Greenwich this January, which makes for an interesting discussion on a discounter retailer investing in such expensive technology.
Another grocer, looking to capitalise on this technology is Morrison’s, who are trialling a similar concept at it’s headquarters in Bradford. The store is currently only open to staff members.
What are the pros and cons of checkout free stores?
- Provides convenience and ease to the shopper, eliminating time spent in the store, appealing to customer who want efficiency.
- Claims that these stores reduce/ eliminate shoplifting and theft, as the technology tracks everything that is picked up from shelf.
- Provides a data opportunity for retailers, with valuable information about shoppers and their habits.
- Supermarket staff could be at risk of losing their jobs as a result. Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said supermarket cashier jobs are among the most at risk of being replaced by automation, with 65% of jobs at risk.
- Relies on shoppers being technologically adept, through having to have a smartphone, download an app, utilise QR codes and more – this excludes shoppers who may be more technologically challenged, such as the elderly demographic.
- Removes the human feel/ interaction from shopping that some customers rely on for customer service and having an enjoyable shopping experience.
With all of these factors in mind, are checkout free stores the future of retail or just a fad?