In a covid world, social distancing has become the norm. And what better shopping experience can retailers provide than the cashierless store? Upmarket South African grocery chain Checkers has taken on the challenge and has launched its first cashierless store in its Brackenfell office in Cape Town.
The “no queues, no checkout, no waiting” concept store aims at making shopping faster and more seamless and is currently available only to employees. Shoprite, which owns Checkers, said that the automated, cashless, cashier-less store has been launched as part of ‘ShopriteX;’ which uses data science and technology for convenient, hassle-free retailing. Shoprite X currently has a 250-member team to work with the brand’s 1,000 plus IT team.
Currently, the store stocks only 40 products such as snacks and sandwiches; but as Checkers learns more from operating this store – it hopes the product category range can be expanded. So how does the cashier-less technology work? Customers would have to scan a smartphone app to enter the store. After which when they move along and pick up items from the shelves, cameras and sensors would track items they add to their shopping cart. On completion of purchases, Checkers would bill the customer’s bank card on exit.
In America, Amazon is leading the pack when it comes to using cashierless technology. After running a dozen test stores, Amazon in February 2020 launched its first and biggest grocery store — Amazon Go Grocery in Seattle, Washington, spanning 10,400 square-foot.
Walmart Canada, Sam’s Club, Kroger and 7-Eleven have joined the party and opened their own cashierless stores.
While this seems to have caught on as a fad in the US. In the UK, retailers like Sainsburys and Co-operative experimented with going cashier-less, but then scuttled it after facing practical difficulties. Tesco and Amazon Fresh with autonomous or “just walk out” stores.
In the covid-era, self-checkout and cashless stores as models are also gaining popularity. Earlier this year, Tesco also launched its first cashless store in London – providing customers a host of digital options from contactless cards to Apple Pay.
But, then in South Africa only 62% access the internet via their mobiles. So one of the major drawbacks in cashier-less, smartphone-enabled service is that a large section of South Africans would get left out. Another issue is the unbanked population in the country. In his latest interview with WeeTracker, Paris Philippou, VP, ecommerce and digital, Massmart does mention that “one of the barriers to going digital will be the fact that many people might not have access.”