A world without checkouts: How till-free supermarkets are changing London's grocery game

Asia's Tech News Daily

(ES composite)

Last time I walked out of a shop without paying, I had to make a red-faced trip back to Boots. This time — at a Tesco Express by Chancery Lane — I find myself being congratulated.

“How did you find it?” asks an excited staff member standing by the barriers. “Keep walking and you’ll get the receipt in a couple of minutes,” another tells me encouragingly as I clutch my brown paper bag. Seconds after walking through the exit doors, a Monzo notification tells me I’ve spent £15.52 on my supermarket haul, quickly followed by the Tesco app announcing I’ve saved £1.89. I won’t be done for shop-lifting after all.

This was my first visit to Tesco’s new checkout-free store: Tesco GetGo. The 2,000-ft supermarket on a busy office-lined street in High Holborn last week and though the aisles might look like any other Tesco store, walking in feels like a brave new world. To enter, customers tap through a Tube-style barrier using a QR code on the Tesco app before picking up their groceries as normal. No baskets? I ask an assistant, quickly realising my question is stupid. The whole point is you don’t need one: simply fill your (free) brown paper bag with items, walk out and a receipt pops up on your phone within minutes (in my case, nine seconds) of exiting the store.

The magic behind Tesco’s till-free tech lies a series of cameras and weight-sensors provided by Israeli startup Trigo, which tracks what you buy — a similar technology to that used across Amazon’s six cashier-free Amazon Go stores across the capital from Dalston to Wembley.

(AFP via Getty Images)

The first of Amazon’s “autonomous” sites opened in Ealing in March to a flurry of ‘is-this-the-future?’ headlines, and since then a wave of UK supermarkets have started taking on Jeff Bezos’ behemoth. Tesco says it is “looking forward to seeing how customers respond” to the GetGo trial in Holborn, chosen specifically for its busy central London location near to tech-savvy, busy office-workers. This particular Holborn store was Tesco’s first cashless outpost, so testing the supermarket’s latest technology here seemed like a “a natural progression,” explains project manager Luke Bayliss.

Rivals are already hot on Tesco’s heels. Morrisons is said to be testing a till-free concept at its Bradford head office, with plans to expand the idea more widely, and Aldi recently announced for a checkout-free store in Greenwich. Even in existing high street stores, brands are making steps towards becoming more autonomous. Sports chain Decathlon is fitted with sensor-led self-checkouts and brought in a Scan & Go payment service using customers’ phones last year. Sainsbury’s launched a similar SmartShop service two years ago, whereby customers scan items as they walk around the store.

The store feels peaceful without the checkouts – but it’s weird being watched by cameras in the ceiling

So will this so-called “frictionless” shopping experience concept take off? Almost definitely, if the hype from Tesco’s day two GetGo customers are anything to go by. “It’s amazing,” sing a chorus of curious mid-morning passers-by, mostly AirPod-wearing millennials with their phones already glued to their hands. Does till-less Tesco feel like a rival to online shopping? Not really, most tell me — though supermarket queues were definitely one reason they started using ultra-fast delivery apps like Weezy and Gorillas.

A passing cyclist mounts the pavement to grab a flyer (“Is it like the Amazon shop?”), while a pair of men with briefcases open their wallets and promise to come back later when they have more time to register. At least they haven’t made the mistake I did of leaving their wallets at home (unfortunately the Tesco app doesn’t use Apple Pay so I had to make a desperate call to my housemate to send me a photo of my debit card).

Katie Strick visits the new Tesco GetGo in Holborn (Katie Strick)

Once inside, the shopping experience is certainly seamless: no waiting in a queue, no “unexpected item in bagging area” alerts, no waiting for staff to come and check your ID. The store feels oddly peaceful without beeping checkouts, though there’s an eeriness to it when you realise you’re being watched by cameras in the ceiling (“The cameras view you as a stick man — or woman — as you’re walking in, so it’s all very data-privacy led,” Bayliss tries to reassure me later. Unlike CCTV cameras, these ones don’t see faces).

Walking the aisles, my thoughts turn to the staff. Six or so of them are stationed around the store to help new customers, smiling proudly in their royal blue uniforms. One woman stands guarding the booze aisle, scanning customers’ faces for their age, but the rest of her colleagues seem to be twiddling their thumbs with little to do. Are they judging my chocolate selection? Do they miss the human interaction at the tills? And more seriously, are they worried robots will eventually take their jobs altogether?

(Ben Stevens / Parsons Media)

Francisca, an assistant standing outside the new GetGo site, assures me she’s not worried. In her last job, as a cashier at Tesco’s Baker Street store, she talked to customers more, but she doesn’t mind the change. “It’s more peaceful and quiet – but we still have lots to do,” she says, pointing to colleagues replenishing shelves. “Every time a customer comes in they need to sign up – they need help working out how to use the technology. In a way we need more staff. Nobody’s going to lose their job or anything. It’s new and different, but it’s not bad.”

(Ben Stevens / Parsons Media)

At Superdrug next door, checkout assistant Soulaeman Adjagbe, 27, isn’t so sure. He’s been speaking to GetGo staff in his breaks and worries his own company will follow suit. He’s considering retraining in technology.

Bayliss insists jobs won’t be lost. “It’s still a service job — it’s just a different kind of service,” he adds, saying his GetGo store employs exactly the same number of staff as traditional stores — “if not more because we’ve got additional people to help sell it”.

But will the store’s friendly welcome party last after launch week? At Amazon’s Fresh’s larger 2,500-ft store in Ealing Broadway, there are just four staff on the shop floor: one on the door (on his phone), another guarding the alcohol aisle (also on his phone), one stacking shelves and another cleaning the floor by the takeaway coffee station (which might serve as a queue-free alternative to nipping into Pret).


The cleaner, Tom*, tells me he is happy working there. He used to be a waiter but earns more per hour working at the Amazon store, though he prefers standing on the door for the human interaction.

But whether the staff like it or not, it’s clear there’s a market for cashier-free convenience. “It’s just easy, isn’t it?” say Will and Anya, two 19-year-old LSE students who are back for their second visit in two days and are in and out of the store in 11 seconds with their snacks. “You just take what you want and you leave — it’s a 20-second journey,” raves Xavier Simes, 24, a warehouse worker for Waitrose who came down out of curiosity. “It’s so much easier, but it’s quite confusing because you feel like you’re stealing.”

Simes says he hopes supermarkets like his own will follow suit — it’s quick and easy and feels like the future. But quite how time-saving it is depends on who you speak to. The previous day a middle-aged customer called GetGo more of a “GetNo” experience after taking two hours and 45 minutes to get into the store (the app didn’t recognise his card details and he spent hours on the phone to the Clubcard call centre).

(Getty Images)

Still, at least he had a smartphone. Anna Cherriman, an 81-year-old grandmother who lives in Greys Inn next door, says the futuristic re-launch will stop her using her local Tesco Express altogether. “I’m not high-tech, I’m not even very good at using self-service checkouts — I don’t even know what an app is,” she tells me anxiously. From on on, she’ll have to start shopping at M&S across the road.

Putting some customers off isn’t the only cause of friction in this “frictionless” new world. Tesco’s app reportedly crashed for 24 hours this weekend – were hackers targeting the new store? Meanwhile some customers complain that the billing technology isn’t always 100% accurate. “I once got a coffee and the system didn’t recognise it,” admits Josh, 33, a software engineer who buys his lunch at Amazon’s Ealing outpost most days. Others say they’re regularly overcharged. “One thing I would say is check your bill,” warns Julie*, a 65-year-old retiree who lives nearby (she’d prefer to give her money to “a British company that pays its taxes” but is a sucker for Amazon’s sushi meal deal).

An hour later at my desk, I remember Julie’s warning and go to check my bill to discover I never received one – have I accidentally just robbed Jeff Bezos? Finally my £25 receipt comes through, two hours and 18 minutes after I left the store, by which time I’ve forgotten what I bought anyway.

Bayliss assures me there are no plans to make every Tesco store till-free. “It’s a specific type of customer who wants that quick and easy journey – others want the checkouts and like that conversation, which is absolutely fine,” he says. Presumably this is the same reason Waitrose – known for its elderly customer base and conversational checkout experience – says it won’t be following Tesco and Amazon. “We’re always looking to innovate and improve the shopping experience for our customers but we don’t have similar plans at this stage,” a spokesperson told the Standard this week.


Sainsbury’s remained coy about future plans, saying “we haven’t announced a wider roll-out of till-free stores but we’ll stay in touch”, while a spokesperson for Co-op’s convenience stores said it would be “monitoring the evolution of check-out free shopping” and continuing “to evaluate and trial new initiatives, including pay-in-aisle app technology and robot deliveries”.

So is going till-free the future, or just a gimmick to fill the gap before robot deliveries become a reality in London’s skies? According to this year’s Waitrose food and drink report, the number of people buying food in-store on a daily basis has doubled in a year – with working-from-home on the rise, that supermarket trip has become a daily ritual for many of those workers in need of an excuse to leave the house. If that’s the case, a more seamless experience can only be a good thing, Francisca tells me. “Customers walk out happier – I’m just happy to see customers happy,” she says, simply. Every little helps.

*names have been changed to protect identities

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


Apple Mac products in 2022 may include a new high-end iMac and the first Mac Pro with Apple silicon

Photo credit: Amy Hirschi / Unsplash Apple is anticipated to make another huge wave of announcements for 2022, especially for its Mac line. The company is expected to announce a new top-tier iMac, ... Read more »

[Exclusive] Samsung SDI batteries to power electric water taxis in San Francisco

(kbw@heraldcorp.com) A major US ride-sharing company will operate electric water taxis powered by Samsung SDI batteries near the Golden Gate Bridge next year. According to industry sources Monday, the San ... Read more »

SenseTime shrinks Hong Kong IPO size by 62 per cent to US$768 million, as Chinese tech sell-off undermines valuation

SenseTime, China’s largest artificial intelligence (AI) firm, is trimming its stock offering in Hong Kong by more than half, as sentiment on technology stocks has soured amid a sell-off triggered ... Read more »

[BOX] Why hydrogen stations in Korea have only 1 charger

A Nexo hydrogen SUV is refilled at a hydrogen charging station in Ulsan on Friday. (Kim Byung-wook/The Korea Herald) ULSAN — Through a 1.8-kilometer underground pipeline, hydrogen compressed by pressure ... Read more »

[From the Scene] Ulsan, city of highest CO2 emissions in Korea bets future on underground hydrogen pipelines

Hyundai Motor’s hydrogen fuel cells are tested at the feasibility center of the Energy Technology Support Agency in Ulsan on Friday. (Kim Byung-wook/The Korea Herald) ULSAN — A city the ... Read more »

Alibaba brings in new CFO in management reshuffle dividing domestic and overseas e-commerce amid Big Tech crackdown

Alibaba Group Holding promoted Toby Xu to succeed long-standing chief financial officer Maggie Wu, and named new leaders to its commerce business, in the biggest management reshuffle for one of ... Read more »

35 business leaders celebrate completion of inaugural 'Innovation Accelerator Bootcamp'

Participants in “Innovation Accelerator Bootcamp” pose with program organizers for a group photo at a hotel in southern Seoul, Dec. 3, the last day of the business training course. Courtesy ... Read more »

China's Yutu 2 rover spots 'mystery hut' on far side of Moon

Beijing: China’s Yutu 2 rover has spotted a mystery object on the horizon while working its way across Von Karman crater on the far side of the moon, media reports ... Read more »

Zoom likely to pay $25 to users as part of class-action settlement

San Francisco: Video conferencing platform Zoom has reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over alleged privacy and security issues, media reports say.If a user used the app before July, ... Read more »

Rapido's bike taxi segment provides 78% to overall business

New Delhi: Amid the growth of bike taxi services in recent times, Rapido‘s bike taxi segment contributes 78 per cent to the overall business, the company’s top executive said on ... Read more »

Taking some of the guesswork out of drug discovery

A deep learning model rapidly predicts the 3D shapes of drug-like molecules, which could accelerate the process of discovering new medicines. Read more »

China ‘modified' the weather to create clear skies for political celebration – study

Researchers say Beijing used cloud-seeding to create artificial rain and lower pollution in July, in latest example of ‘blueskying’ efforts Chinese weather authorities successfully controlled the weather ahead of a ... Read more »

A league of their own

The 38th Motor Expo during Covid-19 in Thailand may not be as colourful as before, but it is nice to see most of the country's great motorcycle brands participating in ... Read more »

Sony could finally be ready to compete with Xbox Game Pass

Sony’s cooking up a competitor to Xbox Game Pass for PlayStation gamers that will reportedly combine cloud gaming, classic games, and new titles. It’s codenamed Spartacus and, according to Bloomberg’s ... Read more »

3D-printed suicide capsules are now legal in Switzerland

Dutch designer Alexander Bannink explains how the “Sarco” euthanasia pod works as a woman experiences sitting in the device by wearing virtual reality glasses, on April 14, 2018 at the ... Read more »

Garena Free Fire Redeem Codes for December 6: How to redeem daily codes

Garena Free Fire recently gained popularity in the country as a multiplayer battle royale game. This game is developed by 111 Dots Studio where 50 players play 10 minute rounds. ... Read more »

Amazon app quiz December 6, 2021: Get answers to these five questions to win Rs 30,000 in Amazon Pay balance

Win Rs 30,000 in your Amazon Pay balance today! You just have to answer 5 questions and a bit of luck. Amazon is back with its daily dose of app ... Read more »

Google smartwatch: What we know and don't know about the company's Apple Watch rival

Google seems to be finally getting its own smartwatch, and it may reportedly sport Pixel branding. Rumours are rife that Google is all set to launch its first-ever smartwatch next ... Read more »

S. Korea, ADB to hold startup road show this week

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) plan to co-host a road show this week with an aim to facilitate Korean startups’ foray into ... Read more »

What is Starlink? Inside the satellite business that could make Elon Musk a trillionaire.

On Thursday, SpaceX launched 48 Starlink satellites into orbit off the coast of Florida. From Arizona to Alabama, people could spot glimmers in the sky as the satellites orbited the ... Read more »

STYLE Edit: The new Tudor Pelagos FXD, the divers' watch marking the historic, 65-year collaboration between the Swiss watchmaker and the French navy

If you’re looking for a timepiece that can withstand the rigours of the deep, best to get one that has been endorsed by the people who know best. And no ... Read more »

Seahawks hold on late for wild 30-23 win over 49ers

1/1049ers Seahawks FootballSeattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson looks to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Seattle. ... Read more »

Study shows men spread COVID particles more than women and children

Fort Collins, Colorado – A study focused on tracking the spread of COVID-19 in performing arts settings has also unveiled the population of humans who spread the most COVID-19 particles. ... Read more »

Using AI, augmented reality to help nurses locate hard-to-find veins

The veins of some patients can be difficult to find for drawing blood as they may be small or not easily visible under the skin. But artificial intelligence (AI) and ... Read more »

Unis, polys join hands with Dell on emerging tech curriculum

Students of four institutes of higher learning here can look forward to new curriculum content related to emerging technologies like cloud computing in the next few years. Singapore Management University, ... Read more »

S'pore to build 3rd supercomputer for healthcare research

The Republic is building its third national supercomputer to advance research in Covid-19 and other areas of healthcare. The new supercomputer is so fast it is expected to train artificial ... Read more »

Best of the best under one roof With the 38th Thailand International Motor Expo up and running, Life highlights some of the standout picks available

Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI S-line. (Photos: Nikkasit Wongsawas and Kingsley Wijayasinha) A total of 32 automobile and 12 motorcycle brands are taking part in this year's Thailand International Motor ... Read more »

Liquid hydrogen aircraft plan for zero carbon transatlantic flights

A liquid hydrogen-powered plane is being developed in an attempt to operate non-stop zero carbon transatlantic flights. The midsize aircraft is being designed to carry 279 passengers at the same ... Read more »

Better research into Instagram, WhatsApp effects on young users needed, academics say

In a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a group of influential academics says the company should allow for better research into how its social media platforms are affecting young ... Read more »

What is Samsung's Harman up to?

A digital cockpit developed by Samsung and Harman is on display at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018 in Las Vegas. Yonhap Connected car tech provider’s performance yet to justify price ... Read more »

Lil Nas X Embodies His Own Positive Light in This White Bandage Top and Suit

Lil Nas X was presented with the 2021 Innovator of the Year award at the Variety Hitmakers event by his good friend Chloe Bailey. When she took the stage to ... Read more »

In corporations' race to go carbon neutral, forest credits explode in popularity

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network. In the forests of Guatemala, China and Scotland, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is planting tens of ... Read more »

US embassy officials in Uganda had their phones hacked with Israeli spyware, reports say

US embassy officials in Uganda had their phones hacked with Israeli spyware, reports say US diplomatic staff in Uganda had their iPhones hacked using controversial spyware sold by the Israeli ... Read more »

How to watch Yellowstone season 4 episode 6 online where you are

Tyler Sheridan’s phenomenally popular TV series made an explosive return in November, and we’re pretty sure we now know who ordered the Dutton family attacks. But a tense showdown in ... Read more »

Small merchants' sentiment dips for Dec. amid soaring coronavirus cases

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) — South Korean small merchants’ business confidence worsened for December in the wake of a surge in coronavirus infections, a poll showed Monday. The Small Enterprise ... Read more »

Broncos vs Chiefs live stream: how to watch NFL Sunday Night Football from anywhere

The Chiefs are back! Or are they? Patrick Mahomes and co. looked like they were finally getting something going before their bye, and they’ll be put to the test by ... Read more »

How to watch Gervonta Davis vs Isaac Cruz and live stream title fight from anywhere

Undefeated lightweight world champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis (25-0) fights the ultra-aggressive Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz (22-1-1), one of the hardest hitters in the division, in a title showdown that promises to ... Read more »

Storm Barra: Severe weather warnings for wind and snow as thousands remain without power

A second storm is set to hit the UK Tuesday while thousands of households are still waiting to be reconnected to power supplies following Storm Arwen, the Met Office has ... Read more »

Sneaky prompts: Microsoft warns billions of Google Chrome users to stop using it now

Microsoft is warning those who use Windows computers to stop using the Google Chrome browser as soon as possible. The company says users should be now switching to Edge instead. ... Read more »

TikTok owner ByteDance ramps up e-commerce expansion with launch of Fanno shopping app in Europe

TikTok owner ByteDance has ramped up its expansion into e-commerce with the recent launch of shopping app “Fanno” in selected markets across Europe, as the world’s most valuable technology start-up ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic