Amazon's cashier-less grocery shop, dubbed Amazon Go by the company, is going through some teething problems, according to the Wall Street Journal. Specifically, the new shop can't handle tracking more than about 20 people at the same time, and freaks out "if an item has been moved from its specific spot on the shelf" the paper writes, citing un-named sources. It's an ignominious start for what was supposed to be the future of the grocery store. The idea behind Amazon Go is that a highly connected grocery store, with enough cameras tracking every item and visitor, can operate without tills at all. Individuals are authenticated through their smartphones and their movement throughout the shop, and interaction with products, are tracked with a plethora of cameras.
You no longer have to make a beeline to Seattle if you want to shop at an Amazon Go store. Amazon has posted job listings for store managers in both Chicago and San Francisco, making it clear where the automated stores are headed next. The company didn't confirm opening dates or locations in a response to the Seattle Times. However, there are already some clues: Curbed noted that Amazon has a building permit for a store in Chicago's Loop, while a San Francisco Chronicle report claimed that a store would open near Union Square. An earlier Recode scoop asserted that Amazon would open as many as six more stores in 2018, with one possibly coming to Los Angeles.
Amazon's checkout-free Go stores might hint at the future of retail, but they're small locations that aren't much good if you need more than lunch or a bag of chips. You might see more soon, though. Wall Street Journal sources say Amazon is testing a version of its computer vision-based shopping technology for larger stores. It's not certain how close the company might be to trying this in the real world (it's currently running in a Seattle space "formatted like a big store"). It won't shock you to hear where the tech might go if it's successful, however.
A major retailer not just piloting but investing in a checkout-free company speaks to the level of interest grocers have in the emerging technology. Although Tesco operates overseas, it faces similar competitive pressures -- e-commerce and discounters, to name two -- that U.S. grocers face. Indeed, mainstream retailers that have struggled to enhance their shopping experience in recent years would arguably get the most value from futuristic checkout. Ahold Delhaize, which does two-thirds of its sales through conventional retailers on the East Coast, recently opened an automated mini-store in the Netherlands under its Albert Heijn banner. In the U.S. Giant Eagle is testing a checkout-free store -- reportedly a GetGo convenience store near its Pittsburgh headquarters -- in partnership with Grabango.