Filled with subterranean shopping malls, FinTech companies and driverless trains, tech-packed Canary Wharf continually has one eye on the future.
The latest futuristic addition comes in the form of a checkout-less shop — Amazon’s fourth Amazon Fresh Store in the UK. No cash, cards, queuing, or tills required, the entire experience is automated. Simply pick your items and stroll out of the shop.
Opened in May 2021, Canary Wharf’s Amazon Fresh is located in the rapidly developing Wood Wharf residential area, less than 5 minutes walk from the Jubilee line station.
Here’s a brief overview of the store, the services it offers, and a simple 4-step guide to using a shop without checkouts if you haven’t visited an Amazon Fresh before!
About the Shop — Amazon Fresh Canary Wharf
What is Amazon Fresh?
Amazon Fresh is the grocery brand from the global mega giant Amazon. Offering groceries and household products, until 2021 Amazon Fresh was only available for online orders in the UK.
If this is the first you have heard of Amazon having physical stores you are probably not alone, the first stores had a muted opening in the middle of Covid-19 restrictions:
- Ealing broadway opened on the 4th of March with three successive London stores opening swiftly afterwards. The group currently only have 4 outlets in the entirety of the UK.
- The Amazon Fresh branch at Canary Wharf covers 2,500 square feet (ca. 232 m²), and offers a selection of groceries in a similar style to major UK supermarkets’ metro stores.
- In addition to groceries, there is a small bakery section, coffee machine and on-the-go meals — hot options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
How to do I shop at Amazon Fresh — Step-by-step guide
Before you arrive
You need a smartphone and to have downloaded the Amazon app. This is how you will enter the store.
You do not need a paid Amazon Prime account, but you do need to have registered an Amazon account and to have entered your card details.
Entering the store
On the front page of the Amazon APP is a heading titled Fresh. Tap on this section and select in-store. This will present you with your QR code for entry.
The code will auto-generate if you have correctly entered your card details, and is unique to you. If you are shopping with more than one person e.g a family of 4, simply scan the code 4 times to allow your group into the store.
There is no self-scanning or further use of the app required. Simply add items to your basket as normal.
There are no detectors in the bag, and the detection technology is not tracking your shopping basket, so you can use your own bags if you prefer. The tech works by detecting when you, or another member of your party, takes an item. If you change your mind and put items back anywhere in the store you won’t be charged.
This is the fun bit, simply walk out of the shop, and you’re done. Receipts will be emailed to your Amazon App — paper copies are not provided.
There are a handful of staff to help in store, but there are no checkouts and checking in with the app is the point at which you effectively open a tab.
3 things to be aware of when using Amazon Fresh UK
1. Helping others
While Amazon’s tracking technology is clever, it’s not that clever. You can shop normally — if you change your mind about an item simply put it back — however the tech is not advanced enough to know that you’re getting an item for somebody else.
As a result, if you grab something from the top shelf to help a nearby shopper then immediately pass it to them, it will still end up on your bill! Amazon recommends asking one of the store staff for help if you can’t reach anything.
2. Age restricted products
Age restricted products are sold in Amazon Fresh stores, but this isn’t yet an automated process. The Canary Wharf Amazon Fresh has a decent sized off-licence area, but verification to purchase alcohol is still required.
If you are lucky enough to look under 25, you will still be ID’d in person before being allowed into the section of the store selling alcohol. Therefore, it’s worth bringing some old-fashioned paper ID along with your smartphone!
3. UK Amazon app required
With Amazon Fresh stores publicly available in the USA since 2018, they have a dedicated app — Amazon Go — providing a QR code for entry into stores. This USA-only app is available to download on the UK app store, and if you search for Amazon Fresh App it will be one of the first options you see. This is not the app you need.
UK stores do not yet have a dedicated app for Fresh stores. For accessing the UK Amazon Fresh stores you will need to download the normal Amazon app and navigate to the Fresh subheading where you can retrieve your QR code.
How does Amazon Fresh work in the UK?
Amazon Fresh stores are the UK version of Amazon Go, using Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology. Unlike traditional stores, there are no checkouts, these have been replaced by in and out barriers at the entrance and a myriad of digital technology behind the scenes.
The hardware behind this technology relies on an array of scanners and cameras, similar to that found in modern self-driving cars. When scanning each member of your party in through the automated gates, the software begins to track each person and their movement around the store with the linked amazon account.
This data is then processed with a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Amazon describes the tech as a blend of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. By tracking you throughout the store it can identify any items you have selected and generate an automatic tab, before charging the card attached to your Amazon account as you leave, and emailing your receipt.
The first store was invented in a Seattle warehouse by the executives without the knowledge of Jeff Bezos in 2015. The beta version was successful, and Amazon opened a concept store in their headquarters in 2016.
This 1,800-square-foot unit was the first official Amazon Go and was used to perfect the software. It remained only open to employees until 2018 when it opened to the public. Store numbers have expanded in the USA, with the first non-USA store branded Amazon Fresh and opened in London in early 2021.