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01/21/2022

Aldi competes with Amazon in in U.K. checkout-free store pilot

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Aldi
Aldi is piloting frictionless shopping in London.

The fifth-largest supermarket retailer in the U.K. is the latest grocer to open a frictionless store in London.

Discount grocer Aldi, part of privately-held German company Aldi Süd, has opened its first checkout-free store in London. The Aldi Shop&Go concept store in the Greenwich section of the city is open for public testing, having been tested by Aldi employees in recent months.

The new trial store, which is situated on Greenwich High Street, allows customers to complete shopping without scanning a single product, or having to go through a checkout. Customers can download the Aldi Shop&Go app, which will allow them to enter the store, pick up their items, and then simply walk out when they have completed their shopping.

Once a customer leaves the store, they will then be automatically charged for their shopping via their selected payment method, and a receipt will appear in the app. The system, provided by autonomous shopping platform provider AiFi, uses specially positioned cameras to detect which products customers have picked up, before charging them to their Aldi Shop&Go account when they leave the store.

Aldi is making this move on the heels of Amazon implementing its “Just Walk Out” frictionless shopping technology in London stores. In March 2021, Amazon opened its first physical store outside of the U.S, in the Ealing section of London. The checkout-free convenience/grocery store, called Amazon Fresh, uses the same "Just Walk Out" technology as Amazon Go stores in the U.S. 

Introduced in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle in 2018, the “Amazon Go” store model being used in the U.K. by Amazon Fresh eliminates the need for human cashiers, or cash payments. Cameras equipped with computer vision and facial recognition technology, as well as automatic sensors, keep track of the items customers take from shelves. When a shopper is ready to check out, they automatically pay with a registered credit or debit card inside the Amazon Go mobile app.

And in November 2021, Britain’s second-largest supermarket retailer became the first third-party international retailer to use Amazon’s autonomous checkout technology. Sainsbury’s has opened a convenience store called “SmartShop Pick & Go” in London’s Holborn Circus district. The location leverages Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, marking the first time that Amazon has retrofitted a store with Just Walk Out technology, meaning it uses Sainsbury's existing fixtures and fittings with the Amazon tech.

Aldi customers wishing to purchase alcohol, or other age-restricted products, will be able to use facial age estimation technology to authorize their purchase. This technology, provided by Yoti, enables customers to confirm their age within seconds via the Aldi Shop&Go app. Those who opt to not use the system will instead be age-verified by a store associate.

“Today is the culmination of months of work, not least from the team here in Greenwich and I’m looking forward to seeing how customers react to our trial,” said Giles Hurley, CEO of Aldi U.K. and Ireland. “This store utilizes the very latest in retail technology offering Aldi’s award-winning products and unbeatable prices to customers in a new and innovative way. The team are really excited about seeing customers come in and experience Aldi Shop&Go.”

“I cannot wait to show customers our new Aldi Shop&Go store,” said Lewis Esparon, store manager, Aldi U.K.We have been working toward this day for several months now so it will be great to see how our customers react to the new technology. For us, steps like this are always about improving the customer experience and the whole team are looking forward to being on-hand and ready to help to ensure that experience is as smooth as ever.”