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Checkout free shopping trial sees alcohol removed from shelves

Published:  30 April, 2019

The need for age verification has led the first UK till-free supermarket to remove wines, beers and spirits from its shelves.

The outlet - a Sainsbury’s Local convenience store opposite the company’s central London HQ, which combines the use of the supermarket’s Smartshop app and payment systems Google or Apple Pay to allow customers to shop and go - has removed all but one human checkout, in what is predicted to be a growing model for the future of multiple convenience retail.

Age verification currently requires a human and slows up the speed at which customers can be processed through traditional tills and current self-checkout scanners.

However, the trial follows in the footsteps of Amazon, which in 2018 in Seattle opened the first of a series of ‘shop and walk’ stores, using a combination of camera and sensor technology to record shopper choices before charging a registered card as they walk off the premises.

This London trial will certainly be watched closely by other multiple retailers in the UK, with a view to developing the speed and ease of shopping in their own convenience outlets – a still growing segment of the retail market.

With frequently ‘discounted’ wines and spirits a driver of footfall in supermarkets, it is unlikely that the major multiples will remove booze from a majority of stores’ aisles any time soon.

But, if the shop and walk trend develops in the high street convenience sector, then there may be some small rejoice for independent merchants, with consumers increasingly moved to buy wines and spirits from dedicated local outlets.

How far shop and walk will be rolled out in the UK remains to be seen, though now it has landed on these shores the likelihood is that versions of the initiative will be here to stay, posing a question for those selling alcohol to the public.

Sainsbury’s were approached for comment.