Sunday, January 12, 2020

'Customers will just walk out': Coles exec flags 'checkout free' stores within 10 years

A leading executive at Coles says Australian supermarkets could be checkout-free in 10 years as innovation in retail technology and an increasing focus on costs quickly make the traditional purchasing experience redundant.

The $20 billion ASX-listed retail giant's head of commercial and express, Greg Davis, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that customers would later this decade be able to shop and leave the supermarket without going through a checkout.

The checkout could soon be a thing of the past, according to one of Coles’ senior executives.Credit:Carla Gottgens

"I have no doubt in the next 10 years, customers will be able to take the product off the shelf, put it in their basket, walk out and have it all paid for," Mr Davis said.

Coles is aiming to use technology to strip $1 billion from its cost base by 2023 through an initiative it has dubbed "Smarter Selling". It is also battling fierce rival Woolworths and insurgents such as Aldi for a greater share of the $100 billion-a-year grocery market.

The technology facilitating checkout-free shopping has already been trialled in the United States by retail behemoth Amazon, which runs a number of checkout-free Go stores across the country.

In Amazon's Go stores, artificial intelligence, numerous sensors and data are used to detect what customers pick up and put in their bags. The company then charges the customer's Amazon account after they leave the store.

Coles’ chief of commercial and express, Greg Davis, says customer demand for Little Shop collectables “blew our expectations out of the water”.

In the past financial year, Coles reported an 8.3 per cent drop in earnings excluding significant items. Chief executive Steven Cain said at the time he would be "disappointed" if the company didn't return to profit growth by the 2021 financial year.

Increasing competition from Woolworths, along with new market entrants such as Kaufland and Aldi, has led Mr Cain to label the next five years as the “most competitive period in Coles’ history”. However, Mr Davis remained unfazed.

"I'm not concerned with the competition at all, I actually find it quite healthy," he said.

"It keeps us on our toes."

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