Tesco opens cashless store in central London

Retailer champions digital revolution with permanent outlet in High Holborn

Tesco has joined the growing cash-free revolution in the UK after opening its first cashless store in central London. The outlet offers shoppers a range of electronic payment methods via self-service tills but does not accept notes or coins.

The store, which Tesco says is planned to be a permanent outlet, is aimed at shoppers in a hurry. Payment methods include contactless cards, debit and credit cards, Apple Pay and Tesco Pay+.

The branch opened a week after a report warned of the potential problems posed by an increasingly cashless society. The authors of the study said 8 million adults could find cashless payments a problem. The head of the Financial Ombudsman Service, Natalie Ceeney, said: “We need to make sure that this shift [to digital payments] doesn’t leave millions behind.”

The cash-free Tesco is on High Holborn, on the edge of the City of London. In the lunchtime rush on Wednesday, shoppers seemed to approve of the store.

Steve Bugg, a billings supervisor who works locally and emerged with a box of sushi, said he had been “in and out of the shop in a couple of minutes. There were no queues … I will definitely be back.”

Allie, a barrister who bought two meal deals, said: “It was all very quick, but I did find the scanner was very sensitive, and I paid for some items twice, which rather confused things. It’s just as well I noticed.”

The store has 14 till points, only two of which are staffed, to help with purchases of cigarettes and alcohol. It is Tesco’s second cash-free outlet – the first was opened at its head office in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Till-free stores have been tipped to arrive in the UK since Amazon opened its first Go, a “shop and walk out” outlet in Seattle, in January 2018. Amazon uses cameras and sensors to track what each shopper buys and then debits a payment card held on file as they leave the store.

There has been speculation that Amazon plans to open Go shops in the UK. Supermarkets including Waitrose and the Co-op have launched or trialled apps that allow shoppers to pay using a mobile phone.

Last year, a few minutes’ walk from the cashless Tesco store, Sainsbury’s trialled the UK’s first till-free grocery outlet, where shoppers could pay with their smartphone then leave without going through a checkout.

However, the retailer abandoned the scheme in September. “Take-up was not as we had expected and it’s clear that not all our customers are ready for a totally till-free store,” it said.


Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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