Supermarket giant Sainsbury's opens UK's first checkout-free store

Key Points
  • The store has been remodeled for the new technology, with its checkout area and tills removed.
  • A helpdesk has been installed to offer shoppers the option of paying with cash or cards.
Giannis Alexopoulos | NurPhoto | Getty Images

One of the U.K.'s biggest supermarkets has opened a till-free store. All customers at the Sainsbury's convenience store, in Holborn Circus, London, will scan and pay for their shopping using an app that they download to their smartphone. 

As shoppers walk around the store, they will scan the items they wish to buy, pay using an app and then scan a QR code to confirm they have paid.

The store has been remodeled for the new technology, with its checkout area and tills removed. The pilot will last for three months, Sainsbury's said Monday.

A helpdesk has been installed to support shoppers who want to pay with cash or cards. Sainsbury's said that 82% of transactions at the shop were cashless.

"This is an experiment rather than a new format for us – it hasn't been done in the U.K. before and we're really excited to understand how our customers respond to the app experience," Clodagh Moriarty, chief digital officer at the Sainsbury's Group, said in a statement.

"We'll be with our customers and colleagues all the way over the coming months, iterating continuously based on their feedback before we decide if, how and where we make this experience more widely available," Moriarty added.

A number of businesses are introducing technology that could transform the way people shop in stores. U.S. tech giant Amazon, for example, has opened a number of checkout-free Amazon Go stores in Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco.

Customers use their Amazon Go app to enter the store, where technology detects when items are taken off the shelves and put in a "virtual cart." Once they are done shopping, customers walk out of the store, with a charge made to their Amazon account soon after.

Earlier this month, however, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed to CNBC via email that the company was planning to accept cash at its Go stores.

The spokesperson described the process as "you'll check out, pay with cash, and then get your change."

"We are working to accept cash at Amazon Go," the spokesperson added.

CNBC's Eugene Kim contributed to this report