Britain is famously a nation of queuers, but now shoppers have been given the chance to choose products, skip the line at the till and simply walk out.
In a first for a UK supermarket, Sainsbury’s has developed a smartphone app that allows customers to scan items from the shelves, pack them in their bag and then leave.
Instead of going to the checkout, they hold up their phone to a pay point near the store exit and receive a digital receipt reading: ‘You are now free to leave the store.’
After a small trial at a store in London’s Euston station, the system has been rolled out in full at a branch near Clapham North Underground station in South London.
Using an app linked to Nectar card, Ruth scans the Sainsbury’s goods with her phone
Items go straight into the shopping bag, with no need for customers to visit a checkout
Users need to download an app and link it to a Nectar loyalty card. The system uses Apple Pay to take payments. Age-restricted items such as alcohol still require clearance from a member of staff.
Sainsbury’s denies the scheme has been devised as a means to cut down on staff. ‘No one will lose their jobs, absolutely not. The power of this is combining people and technology,’ said Clodagh Moriarty, Sainsbury’s chief digital officer.
While the supermarket does not expect a surge in theft, and is retaining conventional tills, it will increase the number of cameras and security staff to deter shoplifters. However, Ms Moriarty said the bigger issue had been customers’ guilt at skipping the till.
‘They have a sort of nervousness that they are doing something wrong,’ she said.
Customers can hold their phone up to a Sainsbury’s SmartShop pay point and walk out
Customer James Watts, 40, welcomed the queue-free technology, but expressed concern about the welfare of softer items. ‘If it means you don’t have to queue, that’s absolutely brilliant,’ he said.
‘The only thing I would do differently is to use a basket, without putting things straight into the bag, because you are just chucking stuff in; heavy items are on top of avocados.’ Amber Taft, 28, said: ‘It does not feel natural. If you are just watching someone in an aisle put an item in their bag, you don’t necessarily know if they have scanned it or not.’
The app builds on existing Smartshop technology, used in 68 Sainsbury’s supermarkets, where customers scan their goods but still pay at a till.
Amazon has a checkout-free convenience store in the US city of Seattle, but this shop is the first of its kind in Britain.