Aldi has opened its first checkout-free supermarket where people can shop without having to scan a product.
The grocer is operating a “trial” store in Greenwich, London, which allows customers to complete their shop and pay without going to a till.
Instead, customers can download the Aldi Shop&Go app, and will then be automatically charged for their purchases once they leave the store.
Aldi’s new store follows similar moves by Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Amazon.
The supermarket’s new site will also allow customers to buy alcohol, using facial-age estimation technology, to check whether they appear to be over the age of 25.
People who cannot or choose not to use this system can have their age verified by a member of staff.
A series of hi-tech cameras will track customers as they do their shopping, and then bill them when they leave.
Giles Hurley, chief executive of Aldi UK and Ireland, said he was “looking forward to seeing how customers react” to the trial, which he said used the “very latest in retail technology”.
Lewis Esparon, Greenwich store manager, added: “We have been working towards this day for several months now so it will be great to see how our customers react to the new technology.
“For us, steps like this are always about improving the customer experience and the whole team are looking forward to being on-hand and ready to help to ensure that experience is as smooth as ever.”
Before the service was launched, Aldi trialled the format with employees.
Aldi is Britain’s fifth largest supermarket with more than 950 stores and about 38,000 staff.
Online retailer Amazon inspired the “grab-and-go” shopping phenomenon in Seattle, when it opened its first checkout-free store in 2018.
Dubbed the “future of retail”, Sainsbury’s launched its own till-less shop later that year which allowed customers to scan goods with a smartphone and put them straight into a bag, and pay via phone.
Meanwhile, Tesco has enabled customers with the Tesco.com app be able to pick up the groceries they need and walk straight out at its branch in High Holborn, London.
A combination of cameras and weight sensors establish what customers have picked up and they are then charged for products directly through the supermarket’s app when they leave.
Retail expert Natalie Berg, founder of NBK Retail, said till-free shopping was “only going to grow”.
“Retailers are in a race to offer the most frictionless in-store experience – in retail ‘no touch’ has become the new normal,” she added.
“Amazon was the main catalyst for this trend and the pandemic has really accelerated this.”
Ms Berg said it was “interesting” that Aldi had adopted this approach, with many discount supermarkets tending to “shy away” from anything that “adds costs to the business”.
However, Ms Berg suggested Aldi could see the till-less supermarket as a long-term opportunity to reduce labour costs.
“There is a fine balance retailers have to strike between seamless and soulless.The danger with too much automation is that it can make stores feel cold and uninspiring,” she added.
Separately, Aldi has hailed its “best ever” Christmas after a jump in December trading.
The discount supermarket said sales increased by 0.4% compared with the same month last year, when grocery stores had been buoyed by lockdown measures affecting hospitality firms.
In the run-up to Christmas, it sold more than 43 million mince pies and 118 million Brussels sprouts.
Boss Mr Hurley said the supermarket would commit to offering shoppers the lowest grocery prices throughout 2022 amid concerns over the rising cost of living.
“As we look ahead, the top priority for most families this year will be managing their household budgets in the face of rising living costs,” he said..