U.K. retail giant opens country’s first checkout-free store

Sainsbury’s is testing a cashless convenience store.

The British supermarket giant has opened a checkout-free store in London’s Holborn Circus area, making it the first retailer in the U.K. to go cashless. Sainsbury’s remodeled the c-store to remove the checkout area and tills (registers), freeing up employees to spend time helping customers and keep the shelves fully stocked, the company said. (A help desk has been added to assist customers who still want to pay with cash or cards.) To date, 82% of the store transactions have been cashless.

The store allows customers to pay for their purchases using Sainsbury’s shopping app, “SmartShop Scan, Pay & Go,” which they can download to their phone. Customers scan their groceries as they shop, pay in the app and scan a QR code before leaving which confirms the purchase.

The checkout-free pilot will last for three months. According to Sainsbury’s, customer feedback from the test will be used to help develop the shopping app further before it is rolled out more widely.

“We know our customers value their time and many want to shop as quickly as possible - technology is key to that,” said Sainsbury’s group chief digital officer Clodagh Moriarty “This is an experiment rather than a new format for us - it hasn’t been done in the U.K. before and we’re really excited to understand how our customers respond to the app experience. We’ll be with our customers and colleagues all the way over the coming months, iterating continuously based on their feedback before we decide if, how and where we make this experience more widely available.”

The Holborn Circus checkout-free store experiment builds on the success of Sainsbury’s shopping app. Sainsbury’s was the first U.K. supermarket to bring in-app mobile payments to customers in a grocery store – in August last year – and the technology is currently live in eight convenience stores across London.