Report: Amazon is testing cashierless checkout for larger stores

Amazon’s cashierless checkout technology is now being tested for use in larger stores, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal on Sunday. The system, which involves an array of cameras to track shoppers’ purchases alongside weight sensors on shelves, has been rolling out this year to smaller convenience stores across the U.S. in markets including Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and soon New York.

The new report says Amazon is now trying out the same technology in a larger space in Seattle, where the ceilings are higher and there are more products to choose from — things that make the system more challenging to implement.

The obvious use case here would be for Amazon-owned Whole Foods, which Amazon has been leveraging to grow its own grocery pickup and delivery business in the U.S. The business challenges rival grocers, as well as Walmart and grocery delivery services like Target’s Shipt, Instacart and others.

In particular, it could be difficult to get a cashierless system to work with items where the size, shape and weight varies — like fresh produce, WSJ notes.¬†Whole Foods stores are also larger, as they’re typically 40,000 sq. ft. and house some 34,000 items.

But if the system were perfected, it could allow Amazon to cut or repurpose store staff at Whole Foods, as well as get a better handle on inventory levels for its delivery business. One of the challenges with ordering groceries today from places like Instacart or Shipt is that the stock levels in the app don’t match what’s actually on store shelves. Longer-term, solutions like Amazon’s Go technology could improve that.

Meanwhile, a system for grocery shopping without waiting in a checkout line could save people time.

Walmart is doing something to address this problem at Sam’s Club stores, where its Scan-and-Go app lets customers skip the line. But it’s still more labor-intensive than simply picking up items and placing them in a cart. Walmart also ended a test of Scan-and-Go that was taking place across its flagship stores earlier this year. Instead, it has begun testing new technologies, including a cashierless checkout system, in a Dallas Sam’s Club store.