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John Ryan

3 Grocers Do Battle for Frictionless Dominance

What could possibly go wrong? (Answer: Probably quite a lot)




HIGH HOLBORN IS A relatively long street, by London standards. It’s central, and it’s full to bursting with barristers and their associated “chambers,” not to mention a sprinkling of very large corporates, which occupy some of the shiny offices just south of the eastern end of this thoroughfare.

All of which means that a good number of those walking its length will have above-average disposable income, and when it comes to shopping for lunch, it will be a matter of grab and go. With this in mind, perhaps about a month back, Tesco, the U.K.’s largest retailer, opened a checkout-free store along the lines of an Amazon Fresh, except that the technology was the handiwork of Israeli company Trigo (Tel Aviv-Yafo).

Then, last week, Amazon Fresh opened its eighth London store, just across the street from Tesco. This sounds like a clash of convenience retail titans, but that’s not it. Sainsbury’s, described as the second or third largest food retailer in the U.K., depending on which set of figures you follow, has now followed suit and converted its High Holborn branch into a checkout-free store, powered by Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology.

That’s three “frictionless” convenience stores on one strip – what could possibly go wrong? The answer is, probably quite a lot. All three have the same idea of shopping underpinning them, but their success, assuming that the tech will do its work, will depend on how good both their store environments and product offers are.

This is perhaps the point. Tech is a means to an end, but when push comes to shove, it’s the shop, how it looks and feels, that will be the determinant for these three Holborn food purveyors. Interesting though. There can’t be many places on the planet currently where three checkout-free retailers are going head-to-head on the same strip, all trying to do the same thing.




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HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

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