Sainsbury’s opens UK’s first checkout-free supermarket

Man holding smartphone and drinks bottle
QUEUE-FREE: Sainsbury’s trial enables customers to avoid queuing at a checkout by scanning and paying for their shopping using a smartphone app

Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has launched the UK’s first till-free grocery store, with the pilot being used to help develop the company’s SmartShop Scan, Pay & Go technology which allows shoppers to pay via their smartphone.

The trial is taking place at the company’s refurbished Holborn Circus convenience store in London where all tills and checkout areas have been removed.

Customers scan and pay for groceries using the SmartShop Scan, Pay & Go app on their smartphone with no need to queue or pay at a till. Instead customers simply scan their groceries as they go round the store, pay in the app and then scan a QR code before they leave to provide proof of payment.

There is also a helpdesk for customers wanting to pay with cash or cards rather than through their mobile. The retailer says 82% of transactions in the store are currently cashless.

Sainsbury’s introduced a self-checkout mobile payments service for its in-store customers in August 2018, becoming the first UK supermarket to do so. The technology is live in eight of its London convenience stores.

Although the supermarket chain had anticipated a slightly lower average spend through the mobile pay solution, the company revealed earlier this month that it had actually risen.

It attributed this to customers knowing that they don’t have to rush to beat a queue so they are taking their time and buying more.

The experiment will run for three months with the knowledge gained used to determine if, how and where Sainsbury’s will roll this service out further.

“We know our customers value their time and many want to shop as quickly as possible,” said Sainsbury’s group chief digital officer Clodagh Moriarty.

“This is an experiment rather than a new format for us. It hasn’t been done in the UK before and we’re really excited to understand how our customers respond to the app experience.”

A former Walmart executive revealed in February that the US retailer cancelled its Scan & Go mobile self-checkout project last year due to high levels of shopper theft, rather than low levels of consumer adoption.