Will 7-Eleven’s cashier-less store take hold?
What would it mean for cashiers around the world if the largest global convenience store chain went fully-automated with cashier-less technology? With 7-Eleven in Japan now exploring such a move, we may find out.
The Japanese-owned chain has begun working with NEC to pilot a cashier-less store concept in Tokyo, according to Nikkei Asian Review. The pilot store, slated to open in December, will allow customers to self-scan items and walk out after identifying themselves through facial recognition. Ordering and stocking will still be managed by humans. Increased customer comfort with smartphone payments and a dire labor shortage in Japan led the chain to begin experimenting with the solution.
While numerous retailers and tech companies have been mulling and testing cashier-less concepts since the launch of Amazon Go, 7-Eleven’s recent history of highly-publicized difficulties with U.S. franchisees could raise questions about the chain’s long-term view for its stateside presence.
In July, 7-Eleven’s corporate headquarters announced a range of new demands that U.S. franchisees would be expected to fulfil moving forward. The new franchisee agreement, which goes into effect in 2019, calls for franchisees to pay a $50,000 renewal fee, share more revenue with the corporate office and stay open on Christmas. The move by corporate provoked outrage from the National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven franchisees.
And the previous year, that group sued 7-Eleven, alleging an illegal power grab that was wicking money away from franchisees. (The lawsuit was later thrown out.)
The cashier-less store pilot is one of a few moves that 7-Eleven in Japan has made to reduce reliance on employees and move closer to store automation.
In 2017, as the country’s labor shortage grew severe, 7-Eleven began implementing RFID technology in its Japanese locations to reduce its dependence on in-store staff. However, the company also lowered the royalty fees that franchisees were paying in an effort to lighten their financial burden and make it easier to attract new store owners.
- Seven-Eleven taps facial recognition for future unstaffed stores – Asia Nikkei Review
- 7-Eleven franchisees have to pay up to stay in business – RetailWire
- Will 7-Eleven’s plan to deal with worker shortages in Japan migrate to America? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What would 7-Eleven’s adoption of cashier-free technology chain-wide mean for the U.S. c-store business? What would the implementation of such technology mean for franchisees?