Just like with Amazon’s Go chain of convenience stores, customers at the Uncommon Store download an app before shopping and then scan their phone at the entrance. Once inside, they grab what they’d like and walk out, with items automatically charged to a card on file.
The potential of such concepts is obvious: to eliminate time in checkout lines and reduce overhead from paying employees.
Despite the aesthetic departure, the store was reportedly designed in collaboration with Amazon, which began licensing its cashier-free technology to other retailers just as the coronavirus pandemic began. An infectious virus was a convenient excuse to replace human cashiers, apparently.
Hyundai Department Store Group (unrelated to the automotive giant) wanted Uncommon Store to appeal to young Korean shoppers who are accustomed to digital payments and will share pictures online. According to architecture firm Atelier Archi@Mosphere, which designed the store, the retro futurism style it adopts is a hot trend in Seoul right now.
Inside, shoppers can buy goods typical of a convenience store, like snacks, soft drinks, and fruit provided by local convenience store chain Nice Weather.
The Uncommon Store lives inside Hyundai Seoul, the city’s newest and biggest department store. Opened in March, the complex spans 959,000 square feet and boasts 600 brands including Prada and Balenciaga. There’s also immense common space in the mall for lounging.
The Hyundai retail company is not affiliated with the automotive giant, though it used to be.
Amazon Go has now expanded to more than 20 retail locations, and the company more recently expanded the checkout technology to a larger format, full-sized grocery store in Seattle.
The tech, which uses cameras and sensors to detect what a customer picks up, is best at identifying packaged goods. It struggles with unpackaged items like produce, so Amazon has been slow to expand the concept. At the store in Seattle, for instance, produce items are sold by the unit or bushel instead of by weight so that cameras can easily handle price calculations. There also isn’t a deli counter or bakery.
The cashierless technology is still fairly expensive to implement in large stores, and workers are still needed to stock shelves. But you can imagine someday it might become good enough that human cashiers become a thing of the past.