Aldi Shopandgo, Greenwich, London

Aldi opens first checkout-free supermarket for public testing

Image credit: Aldi

Aldi has opened its first checkout-free concept store, where shoppers will be able to pick up products and leave without queuing to pay.

The Aldi Shop&Go concept store in Greenwich, south-east London, opened at 7am this morning for public testing, having been tested by Aldi colleagues in recent months.

The firm’s new shop will also allow customers to buy alcohol, using facial age-estimation technology to check whether they appear to be over the age of 25.

The move follows in the footsteps of such rivals as Amazon and Tesco, who have both opened similar checkout-free stores.

Aldi staff will use a series of high-tech cameras to follow customers as they do their shopping and then bill them when they leave. Aldi has been trialling the store with employees over the past few months.

Customers must first register with Aldi’s Shop&Go app, which will then allow them to enter the store, pick up their items and walk out. The aim is to end long queues in stores and ultimately could lead to more such sites opening.

Aldi said customers wishing to purchase alcohol will be able to use facial age-estimation technology to authorise their purchase. The technology, provided by Yoti, enables customers to confirm their identity via the app. Anyone who opts out will be age-verified in store.

Aldi UK and Ireland chief executive Giles Hurley said: “Today is the culmination of months of work, not least from the team here in Greenwich, and I’m looking forward to seeing how customers react to our trial. This store utilises the very latest in retail technology.”

Store manager Lewis Esparon said: “We have been working towards this day for several months now, so it will be great to see how our customers react to the new technology.”

Samuel Mueller, CEO at Scandit, said: “Aldi opening their first Shop&Go store comes as no surprise as this move was to be expected by UK retailers after being squeezed by online giants like Amazon for over a decade.

“We’re seeing many retailers turning to smart data capture and computer vision-powered apps on consumer smartphones that offer a frictionless blend of digital and physical shopping. Consumers want the convenience and choice of self-scanning plus the ability to view real-time product information on their device before buying.

“The beauty here is that retailers bring all the benefits of online shopping into the physical store, without the need for a costly and time intensive store refit. The same technology on smartphones can be provided to their employees - adding speed and simplicity to supply chains, operations and customer service.”

Reflecting on the increase in 'just-walk-out' technology, Dr Jackie Mulligan, an expert on the government’s 'High Streets Task Force' and founder of local shopping platform ShopAppy, warned: “Checkout-free stores are sterilising the high-street experience. Yes, they bring some advantages in terms of time savings, but they come at the cost of basic human interaction.

“Technology is the future but people need to play a part in it, too. If Covid has taught us anything, it is the importance of social interaction.

“Checkout-free stores may be suitable for some big grocers but social experience will be key if we are to revive our high streets after the pandemic.”

In November 2021, Sainsbury's launched a checkout-free store with Amazon that allows customers to pick up items and leave.

The retail industry is increasingly incorporating myriad forms of technology to better understand customers and to target their offering more precisely, whether that be with an automated robot delivery service, like the Co-op's grocery delivery solution, or analysing the shopping habits of in-store customers using floor-walking robots.

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