THERE’S already a small queue outside Aldi’s first checkout-free supermarket in the UK in Greenwich.
But as I get closer, eager shoppers are quickly ushered into the shop by eager staff clad in bright blue jackets and grey headsets, acting as bouncers.
This isAldi…but not as we know it.
Before you’re allowed into the shop, you need to download a free app called Aldi Shop&Go and register.
It only takes a couple of minutes, but you must add a payment card before you’re allowed to browse.
As I download my app, I hear one disgruntled customer shouting.
He’s upset to discover he’s not allowed in to browse without signing up and walks away.
Those who do sign up hit a button to generate a QR code, which you scan to open the barriers and go inside.
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If you’re with your family then you only have to generate one code.
Inside the Shop&Go store, it looks different to my local Aldi.
It’s much smaller and the shelves are more neatly stacked and clean.
All the usual grocery sections that you’d expect in a convenience store are here.
There’s fruit and veg, baskets of baked goods, milk, meat, cereals, toiletries and more.
I’d expected there to be no tills and therefore no queues but I quickly realise it’s missing one popular feature – nomiddle aisle .
The supermarket is famous for its Specialbuys, where it offers low prices on popular items like hot tubs and even smart TVs.
Every week, shoppers flock to see what is on offer in the middle aisle.
But not in Aldi’s Shop&Go store in Greenwich and all the customers I speak to are gutted.
Rajdeep Sangha, 42, who lives locally said: “I check on my phone to see what the deals are each week. It’s really good for school uniforms. You expect something new each time.”
Lisa Bezzina, 55, said: “Where’s the middle aisle? I could spend all day looking in that aisle usually.”
While others were also concerned about the accuracy of the technology.
Katey Hearn, 39, said: “I don’t like how long it took for my receipt to come through on my phone.
“What if I get home and realise I’ve been charged for something I didn’t get?”.
How does it work?
The shop uses technology that monitors anything you pick up and your card is charged when you leave without you having to scan anything or visit a till.
You can put items back that you decide not to buy – but one local resident tells me she was too scared to pick up anything she wasn’t completely sure she would purchase just in case.
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Aldi says if shoppers do find an error with their receipt they can request a refund through the app within 28 days of purchase.
I get a notification about my own receipt about 20 minutes after I’ve left the store – but when I go to find it an hour later I can’t see it in the app.
I’ve got an email receipt too though and it’s accurate.
There are other changes that shoppers may need to adjust to.
In the alcohol section, you’ll get a notification on your phone if you pick anything up.
It prompts you to verify your age by taking a picture on your phone using its facial age assurance technology that can estimate your age.
If you don’t want to remove your mask then a member of staff can check your age instead.
Aldi isn’t the first supermarket to use the shop and go technology.
In April 2019, Sainsbury’s launched the UK’s first till-free grocery shop.
Last year, Amazon launched a checkout free store and Tesco followed in October.
These shops use specially positioned cameras to detect which products customers have picked up, and charge you without you having to scan anything or visit a till.
Aldi’s app uses tech by a company called Yoti to confirm customers’ identity on age restricted items such as alcohol.
Giles Hurley, chief executive of Aldi UK and Ireland, said: “This store utilises the very latest in retail technology, offering Aldi’s award-winning products and unbeatable prices to customers in a new and innovative way.”
It’s all very slick, but here in Greenwich shoppers are not convinced it will catch on.
Especially when there’s a bigger Aldi two miles away – and that one has a middle aisle.
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