Piloting Cashier-less Stores in the Middle East and Africa: Dubai, Cape Town and Tel Aviv by Richie Santosdiaz for The Fintech TImes
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Piloting Cashier-less Stores in the Middle East and Africa: Dubai, Cape Town and Tel Aviv

Part of the world have seen cashier-less stores appear mainly with supermarkets and convenience store formats. The Middle East and Africa (MEA) has also now started seeing pilots of them as well.

Led and spotlighted mainly in Asia (in countries such as China, Japan and South Korea and recently such as Singapore), the United States and in Western Europe such as in the UK (notably with Amazon with its Amazon Go chain), cashier-less stores have been popping up across the world. With the help of innovation and technology, a customer can enter said store and then purchase products without the traditional cashier or even a self checkout – they essentially walk out but with machine learning and other high-tech automatically are charged for the products they leave the cashier-less store with. And of course fintech and wider technologies is helping play a part of this.

Global headlines in cashier-less stores have included the likes of Amazon's Amazon Go
Global headlines in cashier-less stores have included the likes of Amazon’s Amazon Go IMAGE SOURCE GETTY

In the Middle East and Africa (MEA), one example has been in Dubai. The commercial hub and largest city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is reported to be the first casher-less grocery store in the Middle East region. French multinational supermarket chain Carrefour recently launched a Carrefour City+ in one of the city’s main shopping malls called Mall of the Emirates. The mall is best known for the indoor ski attraction, Ski Dubai.

The mall, which is owned by Majid al-Futtaim, is already home to a Carrefour hypermarket and the extra new Carrefour City+, which is conveniently located by the link to the Dubai Metro at the mall, allows for shoppers in Mall of the Emirates to buy convenient essentials. The company, Majid al-Futtaim, in an article in McKinsey, highlighted that wider digital transformation is one of its key priorities with respect to future growth. As a whole, much of MEA has been undergoing a large-scale digital transformation.

Having had the chance to visit the new store myself, the following are some photos of my walk in the store. App registered an all (which of course linked my credit card details to make purchases – the beauties of fintech and other innovative technologies) I was ready to explore:

The small convenient store has a wide range of groceries and other essentials for consumers visiting Dubai's Mall of the Emirates
The small convenient store has a wide range of groceries and other essentials for consumers visiting Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates

 

To enter the cashier-less store one needs to download the app and register their details, which of course includes one's credit or debit card details to be able to pay for their purchases
To enter the cashier-less store one needs to download the app and register their details, which of course includes one’s credit or debit card details to be able to pay for their purchases

In a way the new store has become a new attraction for Dubai. Given its something new for the Middle East region as a whole this store in Dubai will be most likely a tourist attraction in its own right for a while. It is clear from the signage as well in the mall, where probably one of the information booth’s recent most common enquiries has been “where is the new casherless supermarket?”

NOT JUST THE UAE – ALSO SOUTH AFRICA

As reported by Reuters, South African grocery chain Checkers (which caters to a more upmarket demographic) is testing a store without checkout counters, the first cashierless food store in the country. Shoprite Holdings, the owners of Checkers, has a new strategy that wants to use technology to provide more convenient retailing and monitor customer behaviour.

The new trial store, which is within its company offices Cape Town, has around 40 products – which includes convenience items like snacks and sandwiches – and will be available for employees initially. It is reported that the company is still developing algorithms to recognise products and boost accuracy. Similar to my experience in Dubai, it appears, as generally with most (if not all) of these cashierless stores – customers scan a smartphone app to enter the store and whist in the store cameras and sensors track what they remove from the shelves. The retailer then bills the customer using credit or debit cards on file.

AND ISRAEL

In 2019, Israel opened a cashierless store which was billed as the first cashierless on in the country. Nowpet, a pet store, claimed this title with a cashierless store in Tel Aviv. The technology behind the 40-square-meter shop was developed by Cyb-Org Technologies, which is also Israeli.

This year, non-petfood related, Take and Go in Israel opened a pilot location, which contains a grocery store as well as a pharmacy and deli in Tel Aviv. They are also using advanced autonomous shopping technology to change the retail shopping industry and is being backed by grocery magnate Rami Levy.

Cashierless stores, albeit a new concept globally, has also made its way in MEA as well. Time will tell but at least for now they definitely are creating a lot of buzz and attraction for many – at least with myself.

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  • Executive Economic Development Advisor (Emerging Markets) | Contributor

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