Amazon’s cashierless tech expands to London with first international store

Customers scan the Amazon app at the store’s entrance.
Image: Amazon

Amazon has opened its first cashierless store outside of the US with a new Amazon Fresh location in London, UK. The store uses the company’s Just Walk Out technology, which allows customers to pick items off shelves and take them out of the store without having to stop and pay a cashier. Billing is handled automatically, but requires customers to scan their Amazon app to enter.

The launch marks a major expansion of Amazon’s cashierless stores initiative. The technology powering the stores, which uses cameras to track shoppers and their purchases, debuted with Amazon’s first Go store in Seattle in 2016. There are now over two dozen Amazon Go stores across the US. Last year the initiative expanded with a larger grocery store called Amazon Go Grocery.

The store will sell hot and cold food, as well as other everyday essentials.
Image: Amazon

Amazon says its London store, whose existence in Ealing was spotted earlier this week, will stock a range of groceries, and fresh meals. There’ll also be hot food sold under the company’s own “by Amazon” label, which it says are prepared in store. The aim is to offer customers “everything they’d want from their local neighbourhood grocery store,” the company says.

The store opened its doors at 7AM this morning, and will be open until 11PM, seven days a week. It covers 2,500 square feet making it a similar size to the company’s Amazon Go locations in the US, and a lot smaller than its first Amazon Go Grocery store. Additional stores are planned for the Greater London area, the company says.

In the UK, the company is using its Amazon Fresh branding for its cashierless store, rather than Amazon Go like it’s done stateside. Confusingly, Amazon does have an Amazon Fresh-branded store in the US in Los Angeles, but it doesn’t use the company’s cashierless technology, and relies instead on high-tech shopping carts.

Due to the pandemic, the company has a series of hygiene-focused measures in place at the store. Its maximum occupancy is limited to 20 to allow for social distancing, and there’s PPE and disposable gloves available at the store’s entrance.


Amazon sells Morrisons food through their app in the UK and looking at that image of the hot food section, I can’t help but feel like this is just an Amazon branded Morrisons store. With the fancy tech of course.

Sainsburys offer almost the same experience these days. You scan items with your phone, bag them, then pay on your phone and walk out. I’m not sure Amazon’s approach, where customers and any products they take must be tracked through the store, is enough of an improvement to justify all the extra complexities introduced. Which puts a limit on the number of people who can be in the store at once, I believe.

I can’t go over and check it out anyway, as it’s on the wrong side of the city for me.

M&S also have their Scan&Go feature on the app. Sure it’s only limited to £35/40 (iirc) worth of produce but the few times I’ve used it – was quite convenient. I will say I have felt a bit nervous though using it – in the sense I’m walking around scanning items on my phone, paying and then just bagging the stuff in the aisle. I always worry someone might think I’m shoplifting (I know I can show on the app that I’ve paid). It’s a strange complaint granted but I can’t be the only one.
Haven’t used the Sainsburys version yet.

Oh, interesting. M&S say there is a £45 limit on their website, which is well above what I’d get in a single shop in any case. There is no limit on the Sainsburys app, which I’ve been using since November and yeah, does feel odd the first time you do it. But there is signage everywhere and the staff are obviously well aware of what you’re doing.

You’re right. For quick shops that £45 covers most things. I always find my phone heating up a bit when I have the camera on in the app on Scan&Go. Otherwise it does an admirable job of quickly scanning the items.

Ummm, so what’s to stop you from just pretending to scan every item before you bag it and then leave?

What’s stopping you from cheekily not scanning items at the self checkout? I’ve had items not scan for me before and because a queue was forming behind, I thought, well if they’re not going to make sure the scanners work I suppose they must not really want me to pay for this. You don’t need a fancy app to steal groceries.

They do random checks (only had that happen once, was very quick), but I suppose the main thing stopping most people will be the sheer potential for social embarassment. Plus potentially getting your nectar account blacklisted. At any rate I’m sure anything they lose from sales will be made up for in terms of not having to pay staff, and getting customers in and out of the shop quicker. Again, much the same as the self checkouts.

In the context of an ongoing pandemic though, it is great to not have to touch surfaces used by others (baskets, trolleys, self checkout screens). That makes me more likely to shop there. If enough people feel the same way then, again, the increased sales should help offset losses from theft.

What’s stopping you from cheekily not scanning items at the self checkout

Grocery stores where I live weigh the items placed in the bags, and if one hasn’t scanned the item prior to placing it in the bag, the register knows and starts beeping.

There are multiple ways round that.
You can select a "banana" to weigh and then put another product on the scales and then bag that.

Or you can press the new bag button and add a product to the bag as you swap "forgetting" to press the OK.

Or you just pass it through without scanning and leave it on the side and bag it with the rest of the things you purchased at the end.

Indeed—none of these systems are foolproof. They’re a compromise between reducing risk of theft, and not making things too annoying for all the other customers.

Like Liamness said below – mostly I think you’d rely on customers doing the right thing. I can’t imagine the M&S crowd pulling a runner but their app does say after you pay to keep the payment confirmation page and e-receipt open on your phone to show a member of staff on your way out. Whenever I’ve used it, I’ve sought a staff member out when leaving, but often they’ve waved me through on days they have a large queue of folks waiting for their turn to shop.

Well, not really. They just outsourced the scanning to the customer, so it’s far from same experience.

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