Can you imagine popping into a supermarket, picking up what you want from the shelves then marching out again without so much as breaking your stride? Well that day is just around the corner.
Sainsbury’s has come up with an app that could finally kill off the drudgery of standing in a checkout queue to pay for your shopping.
The supermarket is testing technology that will allow customers to scan shopping on their smartphones, then simply leave the store.
The cost of the goods will be deducted directly from their bank account or credit card via their phone.
The supermarket is testing technology that will allow customers to scan shopping on their smartphones, then simply leave the store
Sainsbury’s earlier this month tested a prototype of checkout-free shopping in its store at Euston Station in London.
The site was chosen because most customers there are in a hurry to catch trains and keen to rush through the shop. In the trial, shoppers used a special app on their phone to buy a ‘meal deal’ consisting of three items: a sandwich, a drink and a snack, without having to queue.
‘Some of the people in the trial left the store feeling very smug because they didn’t have to wait,’ said Dan Hills, who leads the team which developed the shopping app. ‘They felt like a king or queen because there was a long line of people waiting to pay and they didn’t have to join it.’
Sainsbury’s earlier this month tested a prototype of checkout-free shopping in its store at Euston Station in London
The supermarket hasn’t set a timetable for rolling out checkout-free shopping in all its stores as it is still in the experimental stage.
But it is already introducing ‘SmartShop’ technology which allows customers to use hand-held devices available in stores or their own smartphones to scan items as they shop and then pay at a checkout at the end. Similar systems are already operated by other supermarket chains.
Sainsbury’s does not expect shoplifting to increase as a result of checkout-free technology because it believes the majority of customers are trustworthy. However, it is developing new security systems to work alongside existing measures.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe said the bigger issue was honest customers feeling uneasy about leaving a store without stopping to pay.
‘People feel uncomfortable just walking out, so we will have to put some kind of intervention in place, such as asking them to scan a barcode or tap their phone on a sensor when they leave.
‘It wouldn’t be of any consequence other than making them feel better,’ he said.
Mr Coupe added that he did not expect checkout-free shopping to lead to mass job losses but that staff who previously worked on checkouts would be redeployed.
‘The world of retail is changing and that means more automation and a redistribution of jobs.
‘We employ thousands of drivers and pickers for our online business – those jobs wouldn’t have existed a generation ago. It is not necessarily a case of fewer jobs, just different jobs.’
He said ‘it is hard to imagine’ a world where checkouts no longer existed at all because some customers would still prefer to deal with a person at a till, even if it meant queuing.
Usdaw, the shop workers’ union, said: ‘We know many customers really value the personal interaction.’ It added that it ‘is generally shopworkers who bear the brunt of any abuse’ when customers become frustrated with new technology.
US giant Amazon last year set up a checkout-free grocery store in Seattle, where it has its headquarters.
The shop, called Amazon Go, is only open to employees at present. Shoppers are tracked through their smartphones and a battery of cameras using facial recognition as they move through the aisles.
Sensors detect when they remove or return products to the shelves. Shortly after they leave the store, a charge is made to their Amazon account and they are sent a receipt.