- Convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard plans to install automated checkout systems from computer-vision company Mashgin at more than 7,000 retail locations in the United States, Canada and Europe, according to a Thursday press release.
- Alimentation Couche-Tard expects to deploy about 10,000 of the self-service devices in stores operating under its Circle K and Couche-Tard brands during the next three years, adding to the hundreds of Mashgin-supplied terminals already at its stores.
- The expanded arrangement with Mashgin builds on agreements Alimentation Couche-Tard has struck with a range of startups to foster retail innovation.
Alimentation Couche-Tard was drawn to the autonomous units from Mashgin because they can process purchases significantly more quickly than traditional self-checkout systems, allowing shoppers to move through stores faster while also freeing up workers to handle other customer-oriented tasks, according to the announcement.
The countertop devices use cameras and artificial intelligence to identify all of the items in a transaction simultaneously instead of requiring customers to scan products individually. That allows people to get through the checkout process in a fraction of the time standard self-checkout systems require, Alimentation Couche-Tard said in the press release.
Alimentation Couche-Tard has been operating the terminals, which are branded as “Smart Checkout,” in almost 500 Circle K stores in the U.S. and Sweden since 2020. According to Mashgin, the units have an accuracy rate of 99.9%, and they can recognize new items in less than a minute and then send that data to terminals in other stores. The computer-vision technology also holds the promise of cutting back on theft by shoppers who neglect to scan items at standard self-checkout terminals.
A store can set up Mashgin’s units in less than an hour, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Mukul Dhankar noted in the press release. In addition, the company has been able to reduce the time it takes for newly installed terminals to download product data from 12 hours to less than 30 minutes, adding to the efficiency benefits they provide, Mashgin Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Jack Hogan said in an interview earlier this year.
Alimentation Couche-Tard’s expansion of its relationship with Mashgin follows the chain operator’s decision late last year to test technology from startups Standard AI and Grabango that lets shoppers remove items from stores without interacting at all with a checkout system. The retailer is piloting the frictionless systems, which — like Mashgin’s units — use computer vision to identify products, at a handful of stores in Arizona.
In addition to its efforts to speed up checkout in its stores, Alimentation Couche-Tard, which runs about 14,100 stores in 26 countries and territories, has also set up a venture capital fund to support startups that are developing convenience-focused retail technology. The company said in February that it had made unspecified investments through the fund in Food Rocket, a Chicago-based ultrafast grocery-delivery company, and California-based e-grocer Farmstead.
As part of its relationship with Alimentation Couche-Tard, Food Rocket is planning a dark store in Chicago that will be located next to a new Circle K location in the city. Food Rocket expects to provide 15-minute delivery of selected merchandise from the Circle K store, which is set to open later in 2022.