Some 200 checkout-free stores opened around the world in 2022, with increasing numbers of retailers investing in frictionless shopping experiences, a new report from research and consulting firm RBR has found.
The majority of checkout-free stores opened in China (which has a total of 335 checkout-free outlets) and the US (187 outlets) last year, the report, Mobile Self-Scanning and Checkout-Free 2023, found. However the technology is on the rise in markets as diverse as Lithuania, Oman, Portugal and South Korea.
“In areas of high footfall where customers value convenience, the potential for checkout-free stores is considerable," commented Alex Maple, who led RBR’s Mobile Self-Scanning and Checkout-Free 2023 research. "As costs and implementation become more manageable, increasing numbers of retailers will invest in this technology, aiming to provide customers with a truly frictionless shopping experience."
Small-format stores tend to be the go-to channel for the introduction of checkout-free technology – Poland's Żabka, which operates around 60 checkout-free Nano outlets, is a prime example – while other retailers to adopt the technology include Family Mart and Circle K.
Major retailers including Aldi, Carrefour, REWE Group and Tesco have opened at least one checkout-free store, and in some cases, several outlets – some of these are positioned as 'hybrid' outlets, which give customers the option of using self-checkout terminals or assisted lanes instead.
The relatively low footprint of these stores opens opportunities for them to open in both traditional retail marketplaces – Hudson and Paradies Lagardère have opened checkout-free stores in airports – and typically under-served channels, such as sports stadia (the Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans both feature checkout-free outlets in their respective grounds).
RBR forecasts that by the end of 2028, the number of checkout-free stores globally will grow to more than 5,000.
Major chains, which are increasingly trialling the technology, are likely to roll out more outlets across their store networks as they look to mitigate high labour costs and offer more convenience.