Are retailers really willing to consider disassociating from associates? I hope that’s not the lesson that merchant executives take away from two recent self-checkout moves.

The first, from Amazon, was a fully self-checkout store, where items are logged as they are placed into a cart. It uses a network of cameras and motion sensors to guess when something is purchased. The flaw? There are no people to clean up the mess when the software guesses wrong. It’s like the world’s largest vending machine.

The second move was revealed a few days ago in Osaka, Japan, courtesy of Panasonic and the Lawson convenience chain. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, which attended the Osaka unveiling, the reduced-associate stores are powered by an unspecified kind of electronic tag. The article didn’t say whether they were RFID tags or not, but that is a likely candidate. It’s item-level tagging, which is more accurate — and more expensive — than Amazon’s camera approach.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here