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Checkout-Free Stores: Is this the future of Retail?

Cashierless store

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The retail landscape is undergoing a transformative shift, which was particularly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as consumer preferences have been increasingly leaning towards prioritising speed and efficiency.

In response to this demand, the emergence of cashierless stores, also known as autonomous stores or checkout-free stores, represents a groundbreaking solution, one which promises a frictionless shopping experience.

What are cashierless stores and how do they work?

In essence, cashierless stores revolutionise the retail experience by leveraging cutting-edge technology. Customers can now shop and make purchases seamlessly, bypassing the conventional checkout process and cashier interaction. These stores utilise a blend of innovative solutions to monitor inventory, track selected items, and facilitate automatic payments as customers exit the premises. To access the store, customers may use a dedicated mobile app, a QR code, or scan a particular card. Once they enter the store, they simply gather their desired items and leave, as the store’s system intuitively records their selections and processes their payment through linked payment methods.

In the past decade, cashierless stores have emerged as a novel concept in the retail landscape, propelled by the swift advancement of technology and the transformative effects of a global pandemic. Although it’s still in the early stages, these innovative stores are reshaping traditional retail practices.

While cashierless stores have yet to become mainstream, the continuous evolution and integration of technology in retail operations suggest a promising future for their widespread adoption. As technology continues to enhance the efficiency and convenience of retail processes, it is increasingly probable that cashierless stores will become integral fixtures in major retail destinations.

The development of this technology actually predates the COVID-19 pandemic, with its roots tracing back to Amazon’s initial trials in Seattle in 2016. By 2018, Amazon Go stores had already made their debut in the USA, heralding a new era of retail innovation.

Which retailers are embracing cashierless stores?

Several leading retailers are at the forefront of embracing this innovative technology to enhance the shopping experience by experimenting with or implementing cashierless stores. Let’s explore three examples of major retailers that have been actively exploring this trend:


Amazon, widely recognised as a pioneer in cashierless technology, made headlines with the introduction of its Amazon Go stores featuring Just Walk Out technology in 2018. These stores utilise an advanced system of cameras and sensors to meticulously track customer movements and purchases, granting shoppers the freedom to select items and exit without encountering traditional checkout lines.

In a bold move scheduled for 2024, Amazon plans to launch an unprecedented number of small-format third-party stores equipped with this innovative technology. Their aim is to more than double the current count of such stores, signalling a significant expansion in their cashierless retail footprint.

Interestingly, this strategic initiative unfolds amidst Amazon’s recent decision to temporarily halt the use of Just Walk Out technology in its own Amazon Fresh grocery outlets.

Presently operational in 140 stores spanning across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, the Just Walk Out system stands as a beacon of shopping convenience. Customers can effortlessly access these stores via a simple app scan, pick their desired items, and exit seamlessly, eliminating the traditional checkout hassle.


In 2020, Tesco, the UK’s dominant supermarket chain in terms of market share, introduced its cashierless store concept known as “Tesco GetGo.” Despite being in the experimental phase, Tesco has strategically rolled out these stores in specific urban areas, including the bustling cities of London and Manchester. This strategic placement allows customers in key metropolitan areas to experience firsthand the evolution of retail.

Operating on a similar technological platform as other cashierless stores, Tesco GetGo revolutionises the shopping experience. Customers can navigate the store freely, selecting items of their choice without the constraint of traditional checkout lines. Upon completion of their shopping journey, customers can simply exit the store without the need to visit a conventional checkout counter, offering a seamless and efficient shopping experience.


In 2022, Aldi became the first discounter to introduce ‘just walk out’ shopping with the launch of a checkout-free store in Greenwich, London.

The Aldi Shop & Go concept store, situated on Greenwich High Street, debuted in January 2022 for public testing after months of rigorous trials conducted by Aldi staff. This innovative store concept marks Aldi’s foray into the cashierless shopping realm, joining the ranks of industry giants such as Amazon, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s.

Fast forward to 2024, and Aldi has partnered with Grabango to unveil ALDIgo, an enhanced checkout-free shopping experience, at a suburban Chicago-area store. Unlike standalone ventures, ALDIgo seamlessly integrates into existing Aldi outlets without necessitating alterations to the store layout or product placements.

Powered by state-of-the-art computer vision technology, the Grabango system meticulously monitors every item within the store, enabling customers to breeze through checkout lines and exit without the hassle of scanning items. With ALDIgo, shoppers can enjoy a familiar grocery shopping experience without encountering special shelves, carts, or entry gates.

Upon completing their shopping, customers also have the option to conveniently pay using a credit/debit card or the Grabango app at nearby pay stations. Alternatively, traditional cashier checkout remains available for those who prefer it. ALDIgo represents a leap forward in retail innovation, offering Aldi customers an effortless and efficient shopping experience in line with modern consumer expectations.

These examples represent just a fraction of the retailers exploring and experimenting with different types of cashierless stores. Others like Sainsbury’s and Walmart are also delving into this trend, highlighting their dedication to innovation and customer convenience as they navigate the evolving retail landscape.

What are the advantages of cashierless stores?

In today’s fast-paced retail landscape, the emergence of cashierless stores stands as a beacon of innovation, reshaping traditional shopping experiences. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies, these stores offer a host of benefits, not only for retailers but also for customers. Here are four key advantages for retailers considering implementing this innovative approach:

  • Enhanced Efficiency – As mentioned earlier, Cashierless stores revolutionise the shopping experience by eliminating the need for traditional checkout lines and staffed cashiers. With automated checkout systems and seamless payment processes, customers can breeze through their purchases without the hassle of waiting in line. This not only saves time but also enhances overall efficiency within the store, allowing retailers to serve more customers in less time.  
  • Superior Customer Experience – Long checkout lines are a major pain point for shoppers, often leading to frustration and dissatisfaction. By adopting cashierless technology, retailers can eliminate this inconvenience all together, leading to a smoother, more enjoyable shopping experience. Happy customers are more likely to return to the store and recommend it to others, ultimately boosting brand loyalty and driving repeat business. Additionally, the convenience of cashierless checkout can attract new customers who value efficiency and convenience.
  • Lower Labour Costs – Labour expenses constitute a significant portion of operating costs for retailers. By transitioning to cashierless stores, retailers can significantly reduce their reliance on human staff, resulting in lower labour costs over time. Automated checkout systems and technologies like Electronic Shelf Labels not only streamline the checkout process but also minimise the need for manual tasks, such as price updates and inventory management.
  • Enhanced Inventory Management – Traditional retail stores often struggle with inventory management issues such as stockouts, overstocking, and inefficient restocking processes. Cashierless stores address these challenges by leveraging advanced technology to track inventory levels in real-time. By monitoring customer purchasing patterns and preferences, retailers can optimise their inventory assortment, ensuring that popular items are always in stock while minimising waste and excess inventory. This proactive approach not only improves customer satisfaction by reducing instances of out-of-stock items but also helps retailers maximise sales and minimise carrying costs.

What are the disadvantages of cashierless stores?

While there are significant advantages to embracing cashierless stores, they also bring along their fair share of challenges that retailers must consider. Let’s delve into some of the main drawbacks and areas of concern associated with integrating cashierless stores into retail operations:

  • Technical issues – Cashierless systems heavily rely on technology, which unfortunately can sometimes fail. Customers may encounter difficulties such as apps crashing, QR codes not scanning properly, or payment processing errors. These issues can lead to frustration and inconvenience for customers, potentially resulting in abandoned purchases or negative experiences that deter customers from returning to the store.
  • Data Privacy Concerns – Cashierless stores often rely on extensive surveillance through cameras and gather significant amounts of data from customers and their mobile phones. While this data is intended to streamline the shopping experience, it raises concerns about privacy and security. Customers may worry about how their data is being used, who has access to it, and the potential consequences if it were compromised. This lack of transparency could end up resulting in a loss of trust and discourage customers from using cashierless systems.
  • Accessibility Challenges – While technology aims to make shopping more convenient, it can inadvertently create barriers for some customers. Being unable to navigate cashierless systems independently may dissuade customers who may require assistance or adaptations. This lack of accessibility can exclude these customers from participating fully in the shopping experience, leading to feelings of frustration and alienation.
  • Lack of Store Assistance – With fewer staff members present in a cashierless environment, customers may find it challenging to receive the assistance they need. Whether it’s troubleshooting technical issues, finding products, or understanding how the system works, customers may feel abandoned or overlooked without readily available support. This can result in lost sales opportunities and negative word-of-mouth reviews as customers seek out retailers that prioritise customer service.
  • Reduced Human Interaction – Shopping is not just about transactions; it is also about human connection. Traditional checkout lines provide opportunities for interaction with store staff, whether it is a friendly greeting or assistance with their shopping. In a cashierless store, these personal interactions are minimised or eliminated entirely, leaving some customers feeling isolated or disconnected. For shoppers who value personal engagement, the absence of human interaction may detract from the overall shopping experience and drive them to seek out retailers that offer a more personalised touch.

Future Implementations: What should retailers consider?

As cashierless stores become increasingly prevalent worldwide, it’s difficult to imagine a future where they don’t play some role in retail. A 2022 report by Sensei, a tech company, surveyed 1,500 UK consumers on their attitudes toward autonomous stores. Results showed that 47% were interested in shopping without traditional checkouts in the future, 34% were undecided, and 19% were opposed to the concept entirely.

While there is overall enthusiasm for a cashierless future, there remains significant uncertainty, exemplified by Amazon Fresh’s reconsideration of its expansion plans in the UK & US. Originally aiming for 260 Amazon-owned stores by 2024, the company has had to reassess due to lower-than-expected sales and the high costs of maintaining complex internal software and technology. Despite being at the forefront of innovation, Amazon’s ambitious plans outpaced consumer readiness for a complete shift to cashierless stores.

SWL have identified the following three crucial factors that need to be taken into consideration by retailers for the successful implementation of cashierless stores in the future:

  • Location – When considering the location for a new cashierless store, it’s essential to understand the local demographic and consumer behaviour. Major cities like London have proven to be ideal destinations for cashierless stores due to their diverse populations and high concentration of tech-savvy individuals, particularly young urbanites who are early adopters of new technology. These urban areas provide an environment where customers are more receptive to and comfortable with the concept of cashierless shopping. On the other hand, rural areas may present more challenges, as the demographic makeup and consumer preferences often differ. Therefore, it is crucial to select locations with a high potential for adoption and acceptance of cashierless technology.
  • Hybrid Stores – The concept of hybrid stores, which offer both cashierless and traditional checkout options, serves as a bridge between conventional retail and fully autonomous stores. While a minority of consumers may be enthusiastic about fully cashierless experiences, a significant portion still prefer the familiarity and reassurance of traditional checkout systems. By adopting a hybrid approach, retailers can cater to a broader range of consumer preferences and comfort levels. This strategy not only eases the transition for hesitant customers but also allows them to experience the convenience of cashierless technology while retaining the option of interacting with human cashiers if desired. Aldi’s efforts in launching hybrid stores with their ALDIgo store in Chicago demonstrate the viability and potential of this approach in facilitating the gradual adoption of cashierless retail models.
  • Addressing Customer Concerns – Building trust and confidence among consumers is paramount for the widespread acceptance of cashierless stores. One of the primary concerns revolves around data privacy and the use of surveillance cameras within these establishments. To alleviate apprehensions, retailers must be transparent about their data handling practices and reassure customers about the security of their personal information. Additionally, addressing potential issues such as incorrect charges is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction and trust. While the accuracy of cashierless systems is typically high, the possibility of errors can result in a lack of consumer confidence. Implementing robust mechanisms for customers to report and rectify such errors swiftly is essential for preserving trust and ensuring a positive shopping experience. By proactively addressing these concerns and prioritising transparency and accountability, retailers can pave the way for the widespread adoption of cashierless technology.

How can SWL help?

SWL are a specialist practice with over 30 years experience in developing and evolving retail practice. SWL have a proven track record in landing and rolling out innovative Retail solutions, from the launch of the UK’s first windows scheduler in the 1990s, to the first UK retail enterprise-wide rollout of a fully managed service solution.

Embrace innovation with confidence by collaborating with SWL. Reach out to our expert team to find out more. Understand more about our solutions and services or click here to contact the SWL Team.

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