Bosses at Morrisons supermarket close to unveiling of an unmanned store where customers can put items straight from the shelves into their bags and walk out
Morrisons supermarket owners are about to unveil an unmanned store where customers can put items straight from the shelves into their bags and walk out.
The supermarket giant – currently in the midst of a takeover battle – has been secretly working on the plan for more than a year and is likely to launch a trial store to the public “within months.”
It requires customers to download an app on their smartphone that must be scanned upon entry.
In the bag: Shoppers don’t even have to scan their groceries at Morrisons’ planned new stores, bet
Digital cameras then track where shoppers are in the store and record which items they put in their bags.
The original concept, nicknamed Project Sarah, is a compact version of the store and is designed to be ‘transportable’ – meaning the entire retail unit can be placed directly in any location.
Its movable design means it can be placed in areas not easily accessible to Morrisons retail stores, such as college campuses or train stations, as well as urban high streets.
It’s clear that later versions of the store, which are currently being tested at the supermarket giant’s headquarters in Bradford, West Yorkshire, may be larger than the original test model. The ‘just walk out’ concept could also be developed as a permanent physical stop, but it is not clear whether this has already been decided.
A source said Morrisons’ plans for the store’s first public appearance are already in the works, with others to follow before the end of the year.
Tesco has been working on a similar project in what appears to be a race between Britain’s biggest retailers to open its first ‘frictionless’ store this autumn.
The developments follow the launch of the first Amazon Fresh store in Ealing, west London, earlier this year, which was first reported in The Mail on Sunday.
Others followed in the capital Chalk Farm, Canary Wharf, White City and Wembley. Shoppers flocked to the opening of the first branch to try out the concept. A source familiar with Morrisons’ plan told The Mail on Sunday: “This isn’t just any toe in the water. This is a real plan and will be part of the company’s growth strategy.” Tesco is also testing technology that doesn’t rely on staff and cash registers in a workshop at Welwyn Garden City’s headquarters in Hertfordshire.
It is reportedly planning its first public place in “an urban setting” this fall.
The arrival of unmanned stores is likely to raise concerns about the future of store staff, who are only needed in stores to restock and clear shelves.
Amazon said its Fresh stores were designed to make shopping “as easy as possible.” Matt Birch, head of Amazon Fresh Stores UK, said: ‘We recognize that UK customers want an easy way to shop, so we really think they will appreciate being able to walk in and out with the groceries they need. .’
However, unions reacted with dismay at the development at the American tech giant.
“We can use new technology to the benefit of shoppers and staff, but this is not the way to do it. All too often, retailers are blinded by new technology in search of solutions to problems that don’t exist,” said Paddy Lillis, secretary general of USDAW, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers.
The developments unfold as bidders circle Morrisons. The supermarket has accepted a £6.3 billion offer from a consortium led by investment company Fortress.
Obviously, rival bidder Clayton, Dubilier & Rice is working on a potential counter-offer and has lined up JPMorgan to work with Goldman Sachs as advisors. An initial deadline for a firm offer from CD&R was set for this weekend, but the date has since been pushed back under formal terms agreed with Fortress. Another private equity firm, Apollo, is also looking at a potential offer.
Investors have already demanded more money for the supermarket chain.