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Amazon and Hyundai to open automated department store in South Korea

Amazon is teaming up with the Hyundai Department Store Group to open a South Korean version of its checkout-free store experience.

Amazon Go in Seattle
Amazon Go in Seattle

Amazon is teaming up with the Hyundai Department Store Group to open a South Korean version of its checkout-free store experience.

The initiative will see the duo co-develop an unmanned, or self-service, element to a new department store in Seoul, where shoppers will be able to just walk out to initiate automated payments (based on Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology).

They’ll also be able to use a drone delivery service for food and beverage, and an automated concierge made possible through Amazon’s artificial intelligence technology.

“We will apply the next-generation retail technology co-developed with Amazon to Hyundai Department Store Yeouido, scheduled to open in the second half of 2020,” an official from Hyundai said. The Yeouido store, which will be in a skyscraper in Seoul’s financial district, is due to be the largest department store in the city.

It is unclear at this stage whether the experiences will be available across other products categories, besides food and beverage.

Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology is otherwise in use in the Amazon Go store, an unmanned grocery experience in Seattle, USA. Reports have long suggested it would expand to other cities, and potentially license the tech to other partners.

This agreement with Hyundai is specifically with Amazon Web Services (AWS) division, the e-commerce company’s cloud service provider. The partnership also has plans to set up a membership platform that will analyze purchasing patterns of shoppers, and a large-scale virtual reality theme park.

When it comes to the future of retail, the idea of automated or unmanned stores is increasingly being experimented with. Alongside Amazon is Alibaba, while Walmart is also reportedly building such technology.

Concern lies in what this means for society given the number of retail employees it could affect (there were more than 3.5 million cashier jobs in the US in 2016, according to the Department of Labor), but arguably the increased consumer desire for convenience and speed – and the power of such retail and tech companies to impact change – may well outweigh that.

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By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.