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Sam’s Club Expands Store Rollout of AI-Powered Exit Tech

Walmart-owned Sam’s Club says it’s turning to artificial intelligence to speed up its own exit technology. Instead of requiring store staff to check members’ purchases against their receipts when leaving the store, Sam’s Club customers who pay either at a register or through the Scan & Go mobile app can now walk out of the store without having their purchases double-checked. The technology has now been deployed at over 120 clubs across the U.S., which is 20 percent of the total number of Sam’s Club locations. Since rolling out, the company claims that it has significantly sped up exits, as members leave the store 23 percent faster. Sam’s Club plans to expand the tech to all its stores by year-end.

Total Retail’s Take: While Walmart sees its largest competitor pulling back on its AI-powered Just Walk Out checkout-free tech in its stores in favor of smart shopping carts, its Sam’s Club business is leaning into checkout-free technology. The system works via a combination of computer vision and digital tech that captures images of customers’ carts and then verifies payment for the items in their basket. AI is used in the background to speed up the process. The AI also learns and improves over time as thousands of exit transactions across locations are analyzed. Before the technology was put into place, Sam’s Club members would queue up at the store’s exit to wait to have their receipts checked. 

The immediate issue that comes to mind with this announcement is what will it mean for shrink rates in Sam’s Club’s locations. Target, Dollar General and even Walmart have reduced the use of self-checkout in their stores due to rising theft levels. Will Sam’s Club’s membership model be a deterrent to theft? Balancing the right mix of member convenience with loss prevention tactics will be the challenge for Sam’s Club moving forward, particularly with investments in checkout technology already made.

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