CORAL WAY, Fla.—Last week, Walmart opened a cashier-free Neighborhood Market in Coral Way, Florida, complete with online grocery pickup, same-day delivery and its Check Out With Me program, according to GroceryDive.com.
The self-checkout offers expanded lanes for large baskets, and an employee is on hand to assist shoppers. The company has tested a prototype store in Arkansas with success.
The Check Out With Me option lets staffers check out a shopper anywhere in the store using a handheld device. Walmart has faced challenges with its Neighborhood Market format, closing several locations during the past few years, including eight stores in 2019. By reducing dependence on cashiers in its latest opening in Florida, the retail giant could cut down on labor costs and potentially boost margins.
This isn't the first time Walmart has experimented with smart checkout. In October 2018, Check Out With Me—designed to handle smaller transactions—was introduced to ease holiday shopping congestion at checkout counters. In May 2018, Walmart discontinued its Scan & Go system that let customers pay for items while browsing the store and skip the checkout line altogether. During the four-month period it was available, however, few customers used the service. Providing an employee to assist with quick checkout via Check Out With Me could alleviate issues with bagging items, such as loose produce or large, bulky items.
Walmart is one of many retailers trying to balance the demand for fast checkout with shopper reluctance to try different tech options for speeding up the experience. Many solutions still come with headaches, from unrecognized items in the bagging area and glitches with payment to lines that pile up at self-checkout kiosks. Walmart’s decision to have no cashiers could free up employees to address other issues, and offering two methods of checking out, including a system for smaller baskets, could keep traffic moving.
In lieu of committing to a self-checkout-only store, other retailers are working on technology-backed solutions to make checkout smoother. Ahold Delhaize recently unveiled its “frictionless” smart checkout service that lets shoppers scan items with a store app, select products and then leave, while Tesco has invested in smart checkout startup Trigo. Other startups are also popping up offering turnkey checkout solutions, including Accel Robotics, Standard Cognition, Zippin and Grabango.