Circle K Will Open Cashierless C-Store in Phoenix

The chain’s first autonomous-checkout c-store will go live next year with plans for more.

August 13, 2020

PHOENIX, Ariz.—Circle K will open a 1,900-square-foot cashierless convenience store in Phoenix in partnership with Standard Cognition of San Francisco, which will provide artificial intelligence that lets shoppers buy merchandise without going through a cashier, reports Forbes.

The first autonomous checkout-equipped Circle K will go live early next year and could expand to “a number of stores in the Phoenix area,” said Magnus Tagtstrom, head of digital innovation at Couche-Tard, owner of 15,000 c-stores, including Circle K.

The Circle K location’s existing fixtures, lighting, inventory management systems, replenishment processes and store layout will remain the same post-retrofit, but customers will have the option of paying via an app or with cash and card at a kiosk or cashier counter. Currently, the store is stocked with snacks, personal care items and cleaning supplies, with plans to expand its inventory over time.

The Circle K system will use dozens of ceiling-mounted cameras, plus algorithms, to track customers as they peruse store shelves—without using biometric data (e.g., facial images). Like the Amazon Go store concept, the technology keeps a running tab of items taken from shelves, and they’re automatically charged to shoppers’ accounts when they exit. But unlike Amazon Go, the system uses no weight sensors, relying solely on cameras. The system accounts for changes, such as when a customer replaces an item on the shelf, and it anonymizes data to minimize the risk of brands or retailers targeting people’s purchasing patterns.

The installation in Phoenix is a retrofit. The store will not be modified in any way except for adding cameras to the ceiling, which makes for an easier installation process and appeals to retailers that already have a large network of brick-and-mortar locations.

“We have like 15,000 stores, and we’re building 100 to 200 stores a year,” Tagtstrom said. “Going to those stores and changing them ground up is a very different level of investment versus retrofitting existing stores.”

Standard Cognition has made impressive headway, nabbing $86 million in venture capital and cementing a partnership with Paltac, a Japanese provider of logistics and store solutions, that will see its solution deployed in 3,000 stores.

“Autonomous checkout is the most potentially disruptive innovation the retail sector has seen in decades. The future of autonomous checkout will be driven and defined by AI-powered ‘retrofit’ of existing stores powered by camera-based AI technology,” said Jordan Fisher, CEO, Standard Cognition. “Over the last few years, Standard has had conversations with most of the major retailers about moving to frictionless, autonomous checkout. The recent global pandemic has hyper-accelerated interest in our platform, as retailers scramble to deliver contactless, touchless experiences across their stores.”

The August cover story of NACS Magazine explores “The ‘Vision’ of Future Checkout,” including its applications for c-stores.