Amazon Fresh to unveil ‘Just Walk Out’ technology in California store

Looking for a quick and easy way to go grocery shopping?

Amazon Fresh has your number. On Thursday, Nov. 18, the company will open its first California market to feature Just Walk Out technology.

Grab what you need and leave

The technology, at the Amazon Fresh store at 11340 South St. in Cerritos, will allow shoppers to enter the store, grab what they need and leave without going through a checkout line or self-serve kiosk. The consumer-friendly option is already in use at four Amazon Fresh locations — one in Bellevue, Wash., one in Washington, D.C. and two in the Chicago area.

Burt Flickinger III, managing director for the the retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, said that kind of shopping experience has become increasingly popular — particularly amid the pandemic.

“The checkout line is the least favorite aspect of going to a grocery store,” he said. “This eliminates that, and checkout lines right now are about 200% longer because of the shortage of workers during COVID-19.”

Future Amazon Fresh stores in La Habra and Moorpark will also showcase Just Walk Out technology, but company officials haven’t revealed opening dates for those locations. A small concessions shop in the LA Forum also features Just Walk Out.

Technology explained

Amazon Fresh District Manager Jondolon Bush explains the technology this way:

“We have hundreds of cameras located throughout the store and sensor-enabled shelving,” he said. “That, coupled with deep-learning algorithms, allows us to recognize all of the products shoppers take off or put back on the shelves.”

Customers can enter the store in one of three ways. They can scan the QR code in their Amazon app, use Amazon One to scan their palm to enter, or insert a credit or debit card linked to their Amazon account.

When they leave, their card will be charged for all of the items in their virtual cart. If they need a receipt they can visit a kiosk in the store, enter their email address and a receipt will be sent to them.

They can use the same credit card to enter any Just Walk Out-enabled store in the future and a receipt will automatically be emailed to them.

It all makes for a digital, hands-free shopping experience. But Amazon officials stress that employees will still be on hand for customers who want to shop the traditional way with a live checkout clerk.

Other Amazon Fresh stores in Woodland Hills, Porter Ranch, Irvine, Northridge, North Hollywood, Whittier, Long Beach, Ladera Heights and Fullerton use checkout-free Dash Carts, which require shoppers to to download an app or create an Amazon account.

The company wouldn’t reveal if Just Walk Out will be integrated into those grocery stores.

Similar technologies

Other supermarket chains, including Albertsons and Sam’s Club, have implemented similar contactless pay options.

Albertsons Pay offers two choices: Albertsons Direct allows shoppers to pay through their bank, and Albertsons Cash is a stored-value account that can be preloaded and used at all Albertsons stores.

Sam’s Club customers can use the company’s Scan and Go app to gather their items and pay via the app while in the store before showing their digital receipt on the way out.

These kinds of cashier-free alternatives would ordinarily raise fears of job losses, but Flickinger said that’s currently not the case.

“Normally it would be, but retail stores are about 20% understaffed right now,” he said. “That’s from workers who left the industry during COVID-19 and didn’t come back, and because a smaller portion of young people want to work in grocery stores.”

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