“We like to say we want the mind of a startup but the soul of a grocer. Our ambition is to make grocery shopping more affordable.”
Yesterday, Shoprite Group announced the launch of Checkers Rush, a pilot Artificial Intelligence-powered store that has no cashiers or checkout counters in Cape Town. Customers just enter the store, pick up the goods they want, and walk out without needing to swipe a card.
Sounds like an Amazon Go store?
Yes, it does and Neil Schreuder, Shoprite’s Chief Strategy Officer, acknowledged that in an interview. Amazon first opened a similiar type of store (Amazon Go) to its employees as a beta in its Seattle home market in late 2016, and then went on to open the store to the public in January 2018.
At Shoprite, the concept store is the brainchild of Shoprite Group’s new division, ShopriteX, which uses data science to “enhance customer experiences”. The division was also responsible for the popular Sixty60 online shopping app, which delivers products ordered within 60 minutes.
Why Checkers Rush?
Shoprite felt it was about time to do things differently since the pandemic has changed the way we work and live. Schreuder mentioned it has 20 million South Africans swiping their cards at different Shoprite locations at the rate of 450 swipes per second. All this activity means the retail giant has almost a petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of data to work with.
Can I visit this store?
At the moment, this pilot store is only open to employees as Shoprite is still training the system. It has only 40 products and will scale as soon as the system gets better.
They hope customers will get to visit sometime in the near future as they’re confident in the system.
Will it work with an area with high crime rate?
That’s a valid concern but for now, the focus is making the system work well. After that they’ll implement appropriate security measures to reduce the risks of crime happening.
Zoom out: Last year, the continent’s biggest retailer reported a $5.5 billion revenue (+4.7%) and $270 million net profit (+18.3%), despite experiencing a 16.7% decline in customers visits due to the pandemic. As part of measures to remain profitable, it announced that it’s discontinuing its business operations in Nigeria.
With Checkers Rush, it’s good to see the team experimenting and looking for ways to improve efficiency in retail.