Could Aussie supermarkets soon be checkout-free? Picture: iStock
Could Aussie supermarkets soon be checkout-free? Picture: iStock

Huge checkout revolution coming soon

A grocery executive has made waves after claiming some Australian supermarkets could be checkout free within 10 years - and he's not the only one convinced a shake-up is coming.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Coles' head of commercial and express Greg Davis said he believed some Aussie shoppers would be able to do their grocery shop without using a checkout within a decade.

"I have no doubt in the next 10 years, customers will be able to take the product off the shelf, put it in their basket, walk out and have it all paid for," Mr Davis said.

A Coles spokesman poured cold water on the idea that traditional checkouts would be replaced any time soon but said the business was always looking into new technologies.

"We've seen technology transform the shopping experience over the past 10 years to make it more convenient and tailored to individual needs," the spokesman said.

"Coles first introduced self-serve checkouts 16 years ago, and around half of all sales are still made by Coles team members scanning customers' groceries at belted checkouts.

"We have trialled a number of new technologies to help our customers complete their shopping faster, however there are no plans to phase out the belted checkouts which remain a key part of our store offer."

The checkout-free concept has created a buzz recently, especially after online retail giant Amazon began trialling its groundbreaking Amazon Go concept store in the US in 2018.

The store offers a shopping "experience" with no lines or checkouts, allowing customers to "simply take what they want and go" and has since been rolled out to several locations in the US.

Shoppers enter the futuristic store by scanning the Amazon Go app on their mobile at a turnstile, and every item taken from the shelf is added to the individual customer's virtual cart thanks to "the world's most advanced shopping technology".

Anything put back on the shelf is deleted from the cart.

Insiders expect more Aussie supermarkets to trial checkout-free technology in the near future. Picture: iStock
Insiders expect more Aussie supermarkets to trial checkout-free technology in the near future. Picture: iStock

Amazon uses cameras, algorithms and weight sensors to determine what a shopper has added to their trolley, and customers pay electronically through an account linked to their account when they leave the store using "Just Walk Out" technology.

But in Australia, it seems supermarket giant Woolworths is already leading the checkout-free charge.

In September 2018 it began trialling the Scan & Go app at its Double Bay store, allowing customers to scan products with their smartphone as they walk through the store and pay in the app before tapping off at a dedicated kiosk in the self-serve area.

It is now available at 10 Woolworths stores, but a Woolworths spokesman told traditional checkouts and self-serve options were also here to stay.

"We've been trialling new technology for those who want to Scan & Go but will always offer customers a choice at our supermarkets," the spokesman said.

"We know many of our customers shop with us because they like the personal interaction with our team, and we respect that choice."

And Ritchies Supermarkets CEO Fred Harrison told he believed checkout-free supermarkets would become more and more common in Australia within a few short years.

"The idea has been touted a bit in the last six months, and I'm certainly aware of what Amazon is doing in the US as well," he said.

"The checkout-free concept doesn't scare us at all - when you really look at it, the checkout is the part of the store that has progressed the least over the past 30 years.

"When scanning came in around the late '70s to early '80s it revolutionised things, but up until the last five years (when self-serve checkouts took off) there hadn't been a lot of innovation, so I don't doubt there will be a bit of catch-up."

Mr Harrison said he expected the concept would involve some "trial and error" and that it wouldn't be for everyone. He said the majority of customers at some Ritchies stores still preferred the traditional checkout over the do-it-yourself model.

But he said times were changing, and he thought the checkout-free concept would be rolled out in greater force soon.

"Some of that technology is already available now and we know Amazon is trialling it, so I certainly think there are going to be more trials in (Australian) stores within the next few years," he said.