According to The Asahi Shimbun, Japanese convenience store chain Lawson Inc. started a three-month trial of an outlet with no checkout counters, part of efforts to address the chronic labor shortage in the industry.
The experiment is taking place in Kawasaki at a store in an office building of Fujitsu Ltd., a leading electronics company. The outlet has a floor space of about 20 square meters, less than one-fifth the size of a regular Lawson store.
Lawson plans to open its first checkout-free outlet for the general public as early as this summer in Tokyo.
Fujitsu employees are acting as customers in the Kawasaki store, which offers only about 250 kinds of food items, including rice balls and drinks, but not alcoholic beverages or tobacco.
The trial shop is manned, but they do no actual checkout work.
The customers need to first download a dedicated app to register their personal information and receive a QR code.
They are required to wave their smartphones showing the QR codes at the entrance of the store.
A system that uses 28 cameras installed on the ceiling and sensors that monitor any change in the weight of store shelves determines which items are picked by the customers.
A pre-arranged procedure automatically settles the transactions when the shoppers leave the store. They receive electronic receipts for their purchases on their smartphones.
From mid-March, Lawson plans a test run of Fujitsu’s biometric authentication device that incorporates palm vein and facial recognition. This system will allow customers to shop without their smartphones.
The biggest burden for convenience store workers is dealing with customers at checkout counters, a duty that accounts for 20 to 30 percent of their time, according to Lawson.
Lawson hopes the automated settlement will not only free up workers from that duty but will also attract customers who hate waiting in lines at checkout counters.
If you want to read this article in Japanese, please see the following link:
Subscribe to our English Newsletter