WHSmith will open its first checkout-free store by the end of the year at an airport in a major US city, using Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology.


The new store will be WHSmith-branded, as opposed to the retailer’s other fascias such as InMotion or MRG, and sell essentials to travellers.

Retail Week understands that the tech-enabled store will be based inside one of New York’s three major international airports with no plans as yet to roll the concept out further.

While the WHSmith store will be using Amazon’s technology, customers will not need an Amazon account to shop there. They will be able to simply scan or tap a card upon entry. 

WHSmith chief executive Carl Cowling told Retail Week: “In travel and air, it’s all very fast-paced and we always want to make sure that we’re at the top of the curve when it comes to new technology. We think it’s very interesting to test this kind of store in an airport environment. 

“I see it as being complementary. I don’t think that we’ll suddenly have a large WHSmith in an airport that’s checkout-free – the nature of airport trading means that there will always need to be some intervention.

“Where I do think this could be interesting is in extra stores at the end of piers and in secondary locations where you don’t have a huge customer flow and so could just sell some of the essentials. Colleagues from the main store could then restock it. 

“It’s very early days, but it will be an interesting trial. We have a view of what the results might be, but we don’t have a next step yet – we want to open the store, understand it and then see what the opportunity might be.”

The new store is one of a swathe of new openings planned for the coming year. WHSmith said it had won more than 100 stores yet to be open in its travel division, including 22 InMotion stores.

Cowling also added that WHSmith is set to open a “blended essentials” store in London’s Euston station, similar to the Heathrow Terminal 2 store, which will include health, beauty, technology and a pharmacist.

The retailer is seeking to expand its categories across travel and high street locations to increase average basket sizes, while Cowling also noted a resurgence in WHSmith’s traditional categories, such as cards.

Cards are trading well above 2019, according to Cowling, who said that in the last week boxed Christmas card sales were up 20% compared with 2019.

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