April 21, 2024

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Amazon is pulling the plug on its Cashierless system in US grocery stores

Amazon is pulling the plug on its Cashierless system in US grocery stores

(Bloomberg) — Amazon is removing its cashless Just Walk Out system from grocery stores, a rollback of an ambitious technology designed to let shoppers skip the line.

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Amazon will retire the system as it reconfigures existing Fresh Grocery stores and will not offer it in new locations that will begin opening later this year, an Amazon spokesperson said.

Tony Huggett, Amazon's senior vice president of grocery stores, joined the company in 2022 and launched a far-reaching revamp of its grocery business, which has struggled to build market share in an industry dominated by companies like Walmart Inc. And Kroger Co.

Amazon plans to rely more heavily on Dash Cart, which allows shoppers to scan items on the go. But the company underestimated the complexity of this technology.

The carts initially used an array of cameras to automatically recognize what shoppers had picked up from the shelf. Newer versions have dispensed with some cameras, and shoppers are now required to hold the item in front of a pair of scanners, which can read bar codes among other signals. Shoppers can also use a touch screen to contact merchandise, such as products, that lack barcodes.

Information reported that the Just Walk Out technology was canceled earlier.

The system uses ceiling-mounted cameras and shelf sensors, powered by algorithms, to determine what a shopper has taken from the store. Customers are automatically charged at checkout.

The company began developing the technology more than a decade ago, as part of a drive by then-CEO Jeff Bezos to develop a unique offering to accompany Amazon's move into physical stores.

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The technology debuted in 2018 with the opening of a small store in the lobby of Amazon's headquarters in Seattle. The company built dozens of Amazon Go-branded convenience stores and later installed the cashless system at Fresh Stores and a pair of Whole Foods Market locations.

The technology has alienated some shoppers, turned off by entry gates or by the feeling that Amazon has turned a grocery store visit into a high-tech vending machine. Receipts, which arrived digitally a few minutes to hours after a shopper registered, were also not practical for supermarkets.

Amazon Go stores will still use Just Walk Out technology, and the company will continue to license it to other retailers. Smaller stores in the UK will also continue to use the system.

(Updates with more context about Dash Carts in fourth paragraph.)

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