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02/15/2022

Travel retailer WHSmith makes U.S. store debut — with Amazon tech

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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WHSmith
WHSmith is using Amazon ‘Just Walk Out’ at LaGuardia Airport (Photo provided by WHSmith. Photo credit: Eamonn Conway).

The British-based global travel retailer WHSmith is letting people pay without having to stand in line at its first North American store. 

WHSmith, located in the new Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport in New York, offers Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology to provide a checkout-free shopping experience. With a dip or a tap of a credit card, customers can enter the store, pick up their desired items, and leave without waiting in line. The product assortment includes on-the-go snacks, beverages and everyday travel essentials

As customers shop, Just Walk Out technology determines what they take from or return to the shelves, and the credit card they used will be charged for the items they took after they leave the store. The platform, currently in use at Amazon Go convenience and grocery stores, combines computer vision, sensor fusion, and machine-learning algorithms. 

Other airport retailers have also been introducing frictionless shopping options. Hudson, a leading travel retailer with more than 1,000 stores in airports, commuter hubs and tourist destinations across North America, has entered into an agreement to use Amazon’s Just Walk Out platform in select travel convenience stores.  The first location to implement the technology —a new concept called Hudson Nonstop — opened in the first quarter of 2021, at Dallas Love Field Airport, with additional roll-outs planned at North American stores later in the year. 

Hudson is following in the footsteps of airport convenience store chain Cibo Express Gourmet Markets, which began rolling out the Amazon technology at select stores in March 2020, shortly after Amazon made the platform available for other retailers to offer a cashierless shopping experience.

“Airport terminals can be very busy places, so we’re excited WHSmith has equipped their LaGuardia airport store with our Just Walk Out technology,” said Dilip Kumar, VP of physical retail & technology at Amazon. “Amazon’s Just Walk Out Shopping experience is designed to be convenient and effortless, so the new WHSmith store will be ideal for travelers who are in a hurry to pick up refreshments, reading materials, or gifts before or after their flights.”

“Opening the first North American WHSmith using Amazon’s groundbreaking Just Walk Out technology at LaGuardia Terminal B is truly an honor,” said Marshall Retail Group CEO Toby Keir. “As a group, we’re always striving to provide the best retail experience for our customers and this new technology allows travelers to shop quickly and with ease during their journey. It’s a hugely exciting time for our business and we look forward to strengthening the retail provision in airports across the US by opening more stores under our WHSmith, Marshall Retail Group and InMotion brands.”

WHSmith is a global retailer of travel essentials in over 30 countries across the globe, primarily in airports, with more than 1,700 stores. In 2018, WHSmith acquired InMotion, a digital accessories retailer in U.S. airports, with over 115 stores. In December 2019, WHSmith acquired Marshall Retail Group (MRG), a U.S. travel retailer with over 170 stores. WHSmith also has a smaller business on U.K. main streets with over 540 stores.