Canadian Security Magazine

Amazon’s checkout-free stores are coming to Toronto and Calgary sports arenas

The Canadian Press   

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By Tara Deschamps

Toronto and Calgary sports fans will soon be able to skip the lineup when purchasing snacks before or during games.

Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary are spending the fall rolling out Amazon Web Services (AWS) technology allowing some of the venues’ stores to offer fans checkout-free shopping — and the Seattle-based e-commerce giant says this is just the beginning.

“You will be seeing more of this in Canada, not only in stadiums, but in all sorts of other environments as well,” said Jon Jenkins, vice-president of Just Walk Out at AWS.

“We never release timelines…but it’ll be coming very soon.”

The Just Walk Out technology requires fans to scan a credit or debit card to gain entry to a store kitted out with overhead cameras and sensors that will use computer vision, machine learning and generative artificial intelligence to track what they pick up and return to shelves, building a virtual tab for each customer.

When fans are done shopping, they simply leave with their purchases and the technology automatically charges the card they used for entry and sends them a receipt.

Though the stores have a myriad of tech to keep the system running, Jenkins said the system really only collects information on what people purchase and the card they put it on. The system does not use facial recognition nor any other kind of biometric identifiers, he stressed.

Greeters are on hand to help people who are not accustomed to the technology, have questions about products and to help enforce age limits at stores that sell alcohol.

“There’s really no substitute for having a human there because not only do you have to ensure that they’re of age, but you have to verify sobriety and things like that as well,” Jenkins said.

Amazon has been dabbling with the system since 2018. It is already used by 70 Amazon-owned stores and more than 85 third-party retailers across the U.S., U.K. and Australia, including LaGuardia, LAX and O’Hare airports, some Six Flags theme parks and stadiums TD Garden in Boston, Arena in Los Angeles and the United Centre in Chicago.

The technology will make its Canadian debut on Sept. 29 at the Saddledome, where it will be available to Market 213 shoppers.

It will then launch at the Scotiabank Arena’s 100-level Grains and Greens and the Molson Market on the 300 level on Oct. 10.

Amazon positioned the model as a win-win because it helps fans avoid long checkout lines that keep them from the game and it could boost sales because fewer shoppers abandon purchases when they don’t have to wait.

In some places where the technology has already launched, Jenkins said users have posted videos showing they have got in and out of stores within 10 seconds.

When Lumen Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks football team and Seattle Sounders soccer team, unleashed the technology last September at its District Market, Amazon said it experienced a 60 per cent increase in customer throughput — a measure of how many customers can be helped by sales staff — over the season.

By the end of the season in early 2023, the team saw transactions per game at the market increase 85 per cent and total sales per game more than double.

When the Saddledome debuts the technology, it will be looking closely at transaction times and basket sizes for results similar to Lumen Field, said Ziad Mehio, vice-president of technology and food service with the Calgary Flames.

But even more important will be reducing hassle for guests, a long-standing gripe at most stadiums.

“We always hear chatter about lineups,” Mehio said.

“I really wanted to look at ways how we help (fans) get what they need and get back to the seat to watch the game and not be stuck.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2023.

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