No Cashiers, No Problem: Sainsbury’s Ramps Up Mobile Payments Focus

May 1, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Is the checkout stand the worst part of your grocery shopping experience too? Sure, there’s a certain amount of fun that goes with pushing your cart down the aisles, unearthing new and tasty snack treats and bargain hunting at the same time. It’s all the joy of discovery and savings in one! Standing in that line to fork over money, though, is like adding insult to injury. Mobile payments technology can help here, but it seems like few stores are willing to adopt it. Sainsbury’s in the UK, meanwhile, is no longer one of these holdouts with its new checkout-free Holborn Circus location.

Holborn Circus is in the central part of London, for those not familiar with British geography. Users therein will be able to pay via smartphone, like at many other businesses throughout the world, though with the additional point that users will never have to go through a checkout lane to make the deal happen.

Instead, customers will be able to act as their own checkout stands, scanning items with their smartphone camera as they shop, bag the items, and then pay via Apple Pay or Google Pay. Cash and card will also be accepted, though those preferring the more standard method will likely see greatly increased lines as there will be one lone cashier at the helpdesk. Reports suggest that early testing saw lines 15 people deep at the cash-or-card booth.

The bad news here is that the Holborn Circus outlet is a Sainsbury’s Local, a kind of convenience store setup, which suggests that the full range of options won’t be on hand. Additionally, this is a three-month trial, which also suggests that this may go the way of the dodo before the end of baseball season. Why stores aren’t willing—or able—to fully commit to this concept is unclear, but people are interested. Sure, it takes some extra doing, but for those who want speed up their experience, this is perhaps the best way to do it.

Here, Sainsbury’s has thrown a sop to mobile payments shoppers and turned the cash-or-card shopper’s experience into a nightmare of waiting. This doesn’t seem like it will end well, and Sainsbury’s has set up the circumstances for its own failure.