DUBAI – French retailer Carrefour has debuted an automated cashier-less store in Dubai in line with its vision to bring futuristic shopping experiences to the Middle East.
The store, the first of its kind in the region, looks like any ordinary convenience store, brimming with sodas and snacks, tucked between sprawling storefronts of this city-state.
The automation however lies in the background and features a sophisticated system of cameras and sensors which tracks people’s movements and the products they pick from shelves.
Once outside the store, customer phones ping with receipts for whatever they put in their bags.
“This is how the future will look,” Hani Weiss, CEO of retail at Majid Al Futtaim, the franchise that operates Carrefour in the Middle East, told The Associated Press.
“We do believe in physical stores in the future. However, we believe the experience will change.”
Automation: the future of retail
The experimental shop, called Carrefour City+, is the latest addition to the burgeoning field of retail automation and closely resembles Amazon’s breakthrough unmanned grocery stores that opened in 2018.
Major retailers worldwide are combining machine learning software and artificial intelligence in a push to cut labor costs and do away with the irritation of long lines.
The pandemic and its associated challenges has further forced major retailers to reassess the future and are increasingly investing in automation – a vision that threatens severe job losses across the industry.
But Carrefour stressed that human workers, at least in the short-term, would still be needed to “support customers” and assist the machines.
The issue of data collection is also creating a concern, particularly in the developed world. The idea of a vast retail seller collecting reams of data about shoppers’ habits already has raised privacy concerns in the United States.
It is however less likely to become a public debate in the autocratic United Arab Emirates, home to one of the world’s highest per-capita concentrations of surveillance cameras.
To allay data privacy concerns, Weiss said that customers must give Carrefour permission to collect their information which the company promises not to share.
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