Third French supermarket chain tests checkout-free stores

Will the supermarket checkout be a thing of the past in France?
Will the supermarket checkout be a thing of the past in France? Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP
After the opening of a supermarket with no checkouts, two more of France's largest chains are testing out stores where customers do not need to scan items or pay at the till.

The Intermarché chain is the latest to test a more high-tech version of shopping, following the French brands Monoprix and Auchan. 

Intermarché has been discretely testing since August a checkout-free shopping experience at a single store – the Rue de Pelleport in Paris’ 20th arrondissement.

It works by using ‘smart baskets’ which recognise items as they are placed in. When customers finish their shopping, they either take the basket to the till, scan the code on the basket and pay or – in the more high tech version – download an app connected to their bank card and scan the final code on the basket to have payment automatically taken from their account.

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The experiment, which Intermarché told Le Parisien will run until mid November, follows two similar developments from other chains.

The convenience store brand Monoprix has been testing an ‘autonomous zone’ in a single store in Paris, which allows customers – when the main store is closed – to pick up a selection of products and have them automatically scanned. A company spokesman said this had been a “promising experiment”.

But ahead of the curve on this is Auchan, which earlier this year opened an entire automated store on the campus of the EDHEC business school, just outside Lille.

Customers at Auchan Go have to download the app before entering, and link their credit or debit card to the app.

Once inside, customers fill their baskets and the business uses image and movement recognition to keep track of the items they have taken. Payment is automatically taken as the customer leaves the store, with a receipt sent so they can keep track of their purchases.

Controversy

But the new technology is not without problems, which may be why Intermarché and Monoprix have opted for a low profile with their trials.

Making stores totally automatic will naturally mean that cashiers will lose their jobs, a sensitive subject – especially in the run-up to an election.

The use of self-checkout services also caused widespread protests when they were first introduced, as did the Sunday opening of hypermarchés with self-checkout options also caused demonstrations from unions representing retail workers.


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