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01/13/2022

Wakefern takes on Amazon with checkout-free stores

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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shoprite pod
Wakefern is piloting frictionless checkout.

The nation’s largest retailer-owned supermarket cooperative is piloting an autonomous supermarket format.

Wakefern Food Corp. is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI)-based frictionless checkout technology from Israeli computer vision solutions provider Trigo at select grocery locations. Wakefern is comprised of of nearly 50 member-families who independently own and operate close to 360 supermarkets under the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace and other banners throughout the Northeast.  

   Utilizing Trigo’s computer vision technology and existing in-store technology, Wakefern is transforming pilot stores into fully autonomous, digital shopping environments. Shoppers at the  stores use an app to scan a QR code as they enter, and then will be free to pick up items and leave without having to checkout, as there is no exit gate. With this deployment, Wakefern is competing with the proprietary frictionless  “Just Walk Out” experience Amazon offers at select Amazon Fresh grocery stores, as well as at its Amazon Go convenience format.

Just Walk Out leverages a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning that enables shoppers to shop the store, pick out what they want, and skip the checkout when they’re done. Amazon is also making “Just Walk Out” available to other retailers on a licensed basis. So far in the U.S., Amazon Just Walk Out has mostly been licensed by airport-based travel retailers, although U.K. grocer Sainsbury’s is also piloting it.

In addition to frictionless checkout, Wakefern has also been exploring other innovative technologies that streamline the customer shopping experience. The company’s ShopRite banner recently rolled out the Bell and Howell QuickCollect Go Pod, which enables shoppers to retrieve their online ShopRite grocery orders from a temperature-controlled outdoor pickup pod, at a store in New Rochelle, N.Y.

When items are ready, customers receive a text containing a QR code to scan on the console screen, which brings the order to the customer pickup portal, allowing them to access their pre-ordered groceries.

In September, ShopRite became the first supermarket chain on the East Coast to utilize Tortoise delivery robots. The remote-controlled, zero-emissions carts typically travel on sidewalks or the side of the road,and are tele-operated by trained remote drivers. ShopRite customers are alerted to the arrival of the order via a text message that can also be used to unlock the cart to unload groceries. 

ShopRite also recently began piloting the Kardex Remstar Shuttle XP Vertical Lift Module (VLM) storage solution at a location in Kingston, N.Y., in an effort to enhance the store’s online shopping service. The Kardex solution is an example of micro-fulfillment technology, which uses automated bots to retrieve grocery items from a compact storage center for streamlined picking. 

“With Trigo’s frictionless technology, Wakefern Food Corp. is opening up access to cutting edge innovation for our members,” said Charlie McWeeney, VP of technology, innovation, & strategy, Wakefern Food Corp. “We are excited to pilot Trigo’s solution and offer our consumers the ultimate in checkout convenience.”

"Trigo is proud to work with some of the largest grocery retailers around the world, so partnering with Wakefern Food Corp., was a natural step for the company," said Michael Gabay, Trigo's Co-Founder and CEO. “By helping Wakefern convert some store formats, or develop new ones that are exclusive to their brands, we can help them accelerate their growth within the market and pave the way for frictionless shopping in the future."

Founded in 1946, Wakefern's members own and operate close to 360 supermarkets under the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.