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Sam's Club is opening a location in Dallas that will allow customers to scan and pay for their groceries with an app — without a cashier or standing in the checkout line.
It comes at a time when many retailers, including Sam's Club owner Walmart, Target, Kroger and Macy's, are playing with technology in stores to appeal to customers, cut costs and grow sales. The opening also comes in a market ripe with competition in the grocery industry — Whole Foods is headquartered in Texas and H-E-B is popular there.
At the Dallas location, shoppers will be introduced to a new "Sam's Club Now" app that builds on its existing "Shop and Go" app.
At first, the so-called lab will be available only for a small number of people, according to the company. A wider rollout is to follow. It's a similar strategy Amazon used when it introduced its cashierless Amazon Go store in Seattle. First, it was only open to Amazon's employees.
At 32,000 square feet, Sam's Club said the new store will be about a quarter of the size of its traditional store, with a focus on food — produce, meat and alcohol.
Here's how the experience will work: Customers will open the "Sam's Club Now" app upon entering the store. They'll be able to use the app to locate items and then add them to their mobile cart by scanning them. The app will also let shoppers navigate aisles of dry and frozen goods.
The app can also make suggestions for items to add to carts based on a shoppers' past purchase history, the company said. It's designed to make sure frequent customers don't forget something they meant to purchase, said Jamie Iannone, CEO of SamsClub.com. And shoppers will be able to place orders remotely for pickup at the Dallas location within an hour.
"We'll use all available technologies — including computer vision, augmented reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, just to name a few — to redefine the retail experience," Iannone said in a blog post.
To pay after shopping the store, customers will simply scan a code with an exit host when leaving, bypassing the traditional checkout process. The Dallas store will eventually be equipped with roughly 700 cameras to help facilitate inventory and layout management, Sam's Club said. The retailer also says it plans to take much of the new technology nationwide over time.
Amazon reportedly could open as many as 3,000 cashierless stores by 2021, putting intense pressure on its competitors to respond with their own initiatives or risk losing sales for lack of convenient options. Kroger has a "Scan, Bag, Go" app similar to Sam's Club, while Walmart decided to pull the plug on its mobile express scan-and-go offering earlier this year. It had been in as many as 120 Walmart stores across the U.S.