Japanese company Signpost says it will begin selling its cashierless retail technology to convenience stores, supermarkets and train station kiosks next year.
Amazon is betting that stores of the future won’t have any clerks or registers. A company in Japan thinks it can get there first.
Signpost, which has a staff of about 100, has already deployed its technology in a kiosk on the platform of a train station in Tokyo. It’s an ideal testing ground: a small space no bigger than a bedroom with dedicated entry and exit points, and commuters in a hurry.
Cameras and artificial-intelligence software track merchandise and purchases.
Founder Yasushi Kambara calls it the “Super Wonder Register,” and says the system can be installed in any store.
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Investors are impressed. Shares of Signpost, which went public last year, have jumped 50 percent since it unveiled the store in early October. The seamless shopping experience is almost identical to that at Amazon Go, the web retailer’s cashierless pilot store at its Seattle headquarters.
At stake is a smart-store market projected to process more than $78 billion in annual transactions by 2022, according to Juniper Research.
Signpost will begin selling its product to Japanese and overseas convenience stores, supermarkets and train station kiosks next year.
Kambara says it will cost a retailer about 100 million yen ($880,000) to install the Super Wonder Register system in a supermarket of about 5,400 square feet. He predicts that Signpost will install 30,000 systems in Japan by February 2021, including the Wonder Register, a simpler checkout terminal that identifies products using cameras. Including sales overseas, “we will be higher than our target,” Kambara said.
Signpost will announce a product deal with a major retail chain by the end of this year and begin installing Wonder Registers from spring, Kambara said.
Tomoaki Kawasaki, an analyst at Iwai Cosmo Securities Co., said Signpost is probably the only company besides Amazon that can provide the technology.
The labor shortage will also spur adoption, he said. “They’re very fast at developing this technology.”
Japan’s retail market is potentially an exciting market for automated checkouts; for example, there are more than 55,000 convenience offering snacks, drinks and packaged food, as well as banking and delivery services. They often struggle to find clerks, and have increasingly hired non-Japanese to stock shelves and ring up purchases.