Tesco has been experimenting with checkout-free stores, in a clear attempt to keep pace with Amazon.
Late last year, Amazon debuted a futuristic supermarket concept that scrapped the checkout counter entirely. Dubbed Amazon Go, the supermarket would use a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning to automatically detect when products are taken from or return to shelves – keeping track of them in a virtual cart. Once you leave with your goods, your Amazon account is charged automatically.
It was a revolutionary idea, and it almost certainly caused a stir amongst traditional supermarkets who have long sought ways to reduce costs – like swapping staff for machines.
It’s no surprise, then, that Tesco is investigating similar technology. Asked whether Tesco is looking at the checkout-free model during a press conference, Tesco CEO Dave Lewis said: “We trial lots and lots of things – the thing you refer to, yes – but we’ll only talk about it when we’ve done it everywhere.”
“The idea that I would come to the market and say, in this one shop we are – I’ve got 3,600 shops,” he continued. “When we’re at a place where we’ve got something we want to launch to all customers, we’ll launch it and we’ll communicate it. We’ve been doing it for a while. Nothing to announce.”
Lewis was also probed by Business Insider on the possibility of launching a subscription meal box service like those offered by HelloFresh or Gusto, to which he responded: “There’s no reason we couldn’t put together ingredients and service it to customers as a meal kit in stores if that’s what they want from us.”
He went on: “There are a number of trials in our stores about exactly that so we can change our offer if ultimately that’s how customers want us to operate. We test a whole lot.”
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