The future of retail?

Person carrying a blue and red shopping bags Print publication


In May this year, James Crayton and Alan Harper attended the 140th Annual INTA Meeting in Seattle, USA. This is an annual conference for IP, trade marks and technology lawyers who attend from all over the world. Whilst in Seattle, James and Alan took a trip to the Amazon Go store and saw first-hand what the future of retail, and the high-street, may look like.

Amazon Go is a new kind of store where there is no checkout required. The store’s tag-line is “Just Walk Out Shopping” and all shoppers need to do is download the Amazon Go app, enter the store through barriers which operate much like a ticket barrier at a rail/tube station, take the products that they want and then simply walk out. There are no queues or checkouts involved. A shopper is allowed to take up to one guest with them.
To achieve this, the store uses facial recognition technology to identify a shopper and then detects when products are taken from or returned to shelves.

James Crayton at Amazon Go   James Crayton at Amazon Go

James testing whether he was charged for items which he took from the shelf and place back. (He is not trying to defeat the tech by wearing sunglasses!)

The shop itself is slightly larger than a traditional corner shop and has the feel of a small Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local. The items on offer are largely convenience-focused and there are a variety of ready meals, lunch options, snack and baked goods. There are also the usual kitchen essentials such as cheese, milk and bread. The store also sold ice cream and alcohol. The alcohol section of the store was staffed and Alan was asked for his ID when he went to see the craft beer on offer. This was one of only a couple of visible staff members.

Alan Harper at Amazon Go

Alan eyeing up the ice cream and beer on a rather hot day!

Visiting the Amazon Go store was an interesting experience and the store itself was very busy. It certainly felt like a glimpse of the future. However, at the moment it is difficult to see whether the technology applied in store could be easily applied to a traditional supermarket or other large store.

Once shoppers are finished, they simply walk. Shortly afterwards they receive a receipt via the app, which is then charged to their Amazon account.

James Crayton at Amazon Go   James Crayton at Amazon Go

James embracing “Just Walk Out Shopping” and then posing for a photo with his Amazon Go bag in front of the Amazon “Rainforest” Offices.

Although there is much to see and do in Seattle and this may not be a top tourist attraction, we would certainly recommend visiting the store if you are ever in the city. At present, there does not appear to be any plans to roll this format or technology out on a wider basis and no doubt this store is clearly an experiment. However, time will tell whether this is indeed what the future of retail and the high street may look like.