Amazon cancels cashierless system at US grocery stores

(Bloomberg) — Inc is pulling its cashierless “Just Walk Out” system from grocery stores, a retreat from an ambitious technology designed to let shoppers skip lines.

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An Amazon spokesman said the company will eliminate the system when it renovates existing grocery stores and will not use it in new stores opening later this year.

Tony Hoggett, Amazon’s senior vice president of grocery, joined the company in 2022 and launched a far-reaching overhaul of the grocery business, which has struggled to survive in a market dominated by the likes of Walmart Inc. and Kroger Co. Build market share in the industry.

Amazon plans to rely more on its Dash Cart, which lets shoppers scan items as they go. But the company has reduced the complexity of the technology.

Shopping carts originally used a set of cameras to automatically identify items that shoppers took off shelves. The new version eliminates some of the cameras and now requires shoppers to hold items in front of a pair of scanners, which can read barcodes. Shoppers can also use the touch screen to query items that don’t have barcodes, such as produce.

The Information earlier reported that Just Walk Out technology had been scrapped.

The system uses ceiling-mounted cameras and shelf sensors, backed by algorithms, to determine what shoppers have taken from the store and automatically charge customers when they leave.

The company began developing the technology more than a decade ago as part of a push by then-CEO Jeff Bezos to develop a unique product to coincide with Amazon’s push into brick-and-mortar stores.

The technology debuted in 2018 when it opened convenience stores in the lobby of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. The company has built dozens of Amazon Go-branded convenience stores and later installed cashierless systems in Fresh Stores and two Whole Foods Market locations.

The technology alienates some shoppers, who are put off by entry gates or the sense that Amazon is turning grocery stores into high-tech vending machines. Receipts, which arrive digitally within minutes to hours of shoppers checking out, are also impractical for large stores.

Amazon Go stores will still use Just Walk Out technology, and the company will continue to license it to other retailers. Smaller stores in the UK will also continue to use the system.

(Updated with more background information on Dash Carts in fourth paragraph.)

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