Sainsbury’s Holborn Circus Local store refurbished to be mobile-first and check-out free


Shoppers at Sainsbury’s Holborn Circus convenience store in London can check out the UK’s first till-free grocery store. The experiment will put SmartShop Scan, Pay & Go technology to the test in a bespoke food-to-go store, making grocery shopping quicker and more convenient. Customer feedback from the experiment will help Sainsbury’s develop the SmartShop Scan, Pay & Go app further before being rolled out more widely. 

All customers will scan and pay for their groceries using the SmartShop Scan, Pay & Go app which they download on their smartphone. They scan their groceries as they go round the store, pay in the app and scan a QR code before leaving which reassures them that they have paid, with no need to queue or pay at a till.

The store has been refurbished to remove the checkout area and tills. This frees up store colleagues to spend their time on the shop floor, helping customers and keeping shelves fully stocked. The store will have a helpdesk to support anyone who wishes to pay with cash or cards. Currently, 82% of transactions in this London convenience store are cashless. 

The range of products available at the store has been tailored specifically for busy customers buying breakfast or lunch and other food to eat on-the-go. In addition to ready-to-eat products, including drinks, snacks, breakfast pots, freshly baked pastries and sandwiches that can easily and quickly be picked up, scanned and paid for, the store will also offer a self-service coffee machine for hot drinks to go. 

The experiment will last for three months during which Sainsbury’s will listen closely to customer and colleague feedback.

The Holborn Circus till-free store experiment builds on the success of Sainsbury’s SmartShop Scan, Pay & Go app. Sainsbury’s was the first UK supermarket to bring in-app mobile payments to customers in a grocery store – in August last year – and the technology is currently live in eight convenience stores across London.

Sainsbury’s group chief digital officer, Clodagh Moriarty, said: “We know our customers value their time and many want to shop as quickly as possible – technology is key to that. This is an experiment rather than a new format for us – it hasn’t been done in the UK before and we’re really excited to understand how our customers respond to the app experience. We’ll be with our customers and colleagues all the way over the coming months, iterating continuously based on their feedback before we decide if, how and where we make this experience more widely available.”

Will Broome, CEO & founder of Ubamarket: said: “It is encouraging to see big retailers such as Sainsbury’s trialling Scan, Pay & Go technology in stores. Such implementation poses many benefits for retailers and consumers alike. As shoppers, we value our time and technology is essential in speeding up the in-store shopping experience. As Ubamarket research has revealed, 53% of shoppers prioritise convenience as they shop in stores. Incorporating retail tech into a store’s offering not only secures their bricks and mortar presence but keeps convenience at the forefront for consumers.

“Is till-free shopping enough? Consumers may not be aware that this technology has the capacity to save them money as well as time. Personalised in-store offers and real-time loyalty updates are well within the capacity for this technology and it is essential that retailers implement these additions. If retailers are going to digitalise shopping then they should allow shoppers to add their shopping lists to the apps, be guided around the store and get more information about the products that they’re shopping. While a great step forward, just being able to scan and go is insufficient – it is crucial to include the full capabilities of this kind of technology.”