October 4, 2018 / 1:57 PM / 16 days ago

Casino gambles on Amazon-style checkout free Champs Elysees store

PARIS (Reuters) - Casino (CASP.PA) is doing away with cashiers in a new shop near the Champs Elysees in a French version of the Amazon Go (AMZN.O) checkout-free convenience stores in the United States.

Martin Calmels, Head Of Innovation at Groupe Casino, uses his mobile phone at the digital wall to select the items as he shops inside a high-tech store named "Le 4 Casino" in Paris, France, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Like other retailers, Casino is trying to adapt to the challenges of online shopping and more such stores could be on the cards if the format is successful, said Tina Schuler, who heads its Geant, Leader Price and Casino supermarkets.

As well as the threat posed by online competitors, Casino is battling to ease investor concerns over its debt levels and intense competition within France, which have sent its shares down by some 30 percent since the start of the year.

Casino said last month it had rejected a tie-up approach from Carrefour (CARR.PA), although its larger rival denied making an offer.

The new store, selling 6,000 products including gourmet groceries and organic food, features image recognition technology and allows shoppers to buy with a Casino App and pay online or at a self-service check-out.

“We were intent on creating a place that would make shopping easy and fun, where customers can test and taste products before buying and even eat in-store, at any time of the day or night,” Schuler said, adding that the concept could be tried elsewhere.

Casino is not alone in its experiments. Earlier this year Britain’s Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) said it was trialing new technology that “gives shoppers the option to grab their groceries and skip the checkout completely”.

Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco (TSCO.L) is trialing a checkout-free payment at its convenience stores, allowing customers to scan products on their mobile devices and walk out.

DIGITAL WAITER

In Casino’s new store, customers can order for home delivery through a digital “picking wall”, use a snack area and bar and get advice from a digital waiter who can guess your age.

Casino has a target of 1,500-2,000 customers per day compared with 1,200 on average for a traditional outlet and is giving itself six months to see if the new format succeeds.

France’s fourth largest food retailer after Leclerc, Carrefour (CARR.PA) and Intermarche, Casino has a market share of 11.2 percent in France, Kantar Worldpanel data shows.

It makes the bulk of its 38 billion euros ($43.7 billion) in overall group sales in France through more than 9,000 stores, although it has been cutting back on large hypermarkets.

In June, Casino and cosmetics group L’Oreal (OREP.PA) launched new beauty stores in Paris dubbed “le drugstore parisien” that will offer beauty products and healthcare goods.

And in March, Casino’s upmarket Monoprix chain became the first French retailer to sell groceries via Amazon’s Prime loyalty program in the lucrative Paris market.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Alexander Smith

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