New unstaffed Cheers convenience store in Singapore

Date : 16 December 2020

Soo-Eng Tan

Senior Retail Analyst

Cheers, a chain of convenience stores operated by FairPrice, has launched a new smart store in Our Tampines Hub.

First store powered by Artificial Intelligence

Source: IGD Research

This is the first store where shoppers can enter, pick the products they need and walk out. Payment is done automatically through a facial recognition technology within the app. The store is opened 24 hours a day and carries 295 food and drink products. It does not sell cigarettes or alcohol. The chain introduced its first unmanned and cashless concept in 2017. However, the previous system required shoppers to pay at a self-checkout counter.

How does it work?

  • Shoppers must download the Cheers SG app and add their Visa account as mode of payment
  • To enter the store, shoppers can use the facial recognition technology within the app or scan a QR unique code on their phone
  • Products that are removed from shelves are recorded using the AI system
  • The system is linked to the app. It will automatically charge shoppers for products that are picked up as they exit the store

An advanced artificial intelligence system in the store tracks the shoppers’ actions. If a shopper picks up a product, consumes it and put it back on the shelf, the system will block the person from entering the store again.

Source: IGD Research

 

New technology will be rolled out if successful

The new AI system may be rolled out to other Cheers outlets in the future. Other digital payment methods and credit cards will be added over the next few months. A staff member will be around to guide shoppers over the next three months. Due to safe distancing measures, only six people including the staff member, will be allowed to enter the store at any time.

Pick & Go - the first AI-enabled unmanned store

Pick & Go is another retailer that uses smart camera and smart shelves to track shoppers' in-store behaviour. Pick & Go's director Alex Ng shared that the store's AI will be able to track multiple shoppers when they pick items from the same shelf. The retailer has two stores in Singapore, one in a school and the other in a residential condominium. The innovative idea was developed with government funding. 

Source: IGD Research

 

What do we think?

Unstaffed stores are being trialled by retailers in Singapore as manpower is limited and labour costs are rising. It is also difficult to get workers to do the night shift. A typical convenience store will require between six to eight employees to operate 24 hours, 7 days a week. The application of these technologies allows for automation of inventory management, cashiering and cash counting. We believe that there is a role for these stores to improve efficiency of the stores in the future. However, it is unlikely that they will be rolled out extensively due to high initial investment.