Walmart is testing a new front store design in Arkansas, its home state, that doesn’t feature any traditional cashiers. Rather than standing in line, putting items on a conveyor belt, and waiting for the cashier to scan and bag them, customers will be able to use self-checkout technology to ring up their own products. The test is intended to see whether this system can get customers through the process more quickly than traditional checkout systems.
The information comes from FOX5, which reports that the test is being conducted at a store located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The company will redesign the checkout area located at the front of the store, offering a different checkout experience than customers are used to.
These machines are already found in Walmart stores across the nation, but this will be the only store where human cashiers aren’t available at individual registers. Rather, store associates will be near the checkout and available to help customers if needed, including scanning and bagging their items for them if desired. Ultimately, Walmart explains that customers will have every checkout option made available to them at this location.
The company explained the test to FOX5 from the perspective of it being potentially beneficial to limit exposure to other people during the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, that explanation won’t likely sit well with critics who are worried about the potential for artificial intelligence to replace jobs, particularly low-skill employment opportunities that many people rely upon. The decision to test this type of cashier-less operation isn’t surprising, however.
Amazon introduced the concept of cashier-free shopping in a big way with its Amazon Go convenience stores; in the years since, we’ve seen various tests and heard rumors of similar ambitions from competitor Walmart, which has considerably more stores, but also the technical issues that come with such massive destinations.
According to the report, Walmart may expand this new checkout design in other stores if the test goes well.
UPDATE: Added information provided by Walmart.