Online giant Amazon is preparing to open 260 cashierless supermarkets across the UK over the next three years, it is claimed.
The US company is reportedly gearing up for a major assault on the sector with the rapid rollout of hi-tech stores.
The retailer already has six Amazon Fresh grocery stores in the UK, having opened its first in March this year in Ealing, West London.
Customers scan a quick response code as they enter the shop then put items in their bag.
A network of cameras and sensors detect what they have picked.
Shoppers simply walk out with their purchases, which are then charged to their account.
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A report by the website Business Insiders claims internal documents show Amazon is looking to open another 60 such stores next year, a further 100 in 2023 and 100 in 2024.
The documents are said to say: “In 2022, we assume a broader rollout of two store launches per week by the end of [the] year. In 2023 and 2024, we are planning 100 stores launched per year, in line with more aggressive opening programmes achieved by convenience stores in the UK in the last five years.”
That is a reference to rival retailers Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op.
The report also claims Amazon is looking to open supermarkets in Germany, Spain and Italy next year.
A spokesman for Amazon said: “We do not comment on rumours or speculation.”
If the plans go ahead, the expansion would prove another big challenge to existing supermarket chains. Tesco has followed Amazon in opening a state-of-the-art checkout-free store.
Last month Amazon opened its first mini department store outside the US in Kent’s Bluewater shopping centre. The 4-star branch sells around 2,000 of what it says are its best-selling or most “trending” lines, including books, gadgets, toys and homewares.