Seven-Eleven Japan is collaborating with NEC to start a cashier free comfort store that utilizes face recognition tech to verify shoppers and examine them.

Retail area of Japan urgently needs to advance its totally low production. The emerging problem of employing staff among a strong shortage of workers, together with growing expenses of part-time labor, is especially urging comfort stores to discover more ways to enhance efficiency and stay competitive.

Besides this background, this step taken by Seven & i Holdings unit to experiment an insignificant staffed comfort shop can be the first one towards the ultimate debut of automatic shops in Japan.

Experimental store of Seven-Eleven will start in December in the interior of a building in Tokyo where there are offices of an NEC group. It is a minor shop with only more than 10% of the floor area of a usual Seven-Eleven location, and is made for workers of NEC group who have preregistration for shopping there.

At the entrance, customers must either get verification by facial recognition or hold their worker IDs in front of a reader. To check out, they have to scan the items’ barcodes they are planning to buy and recognize themselves through either worker ID or facial verification at a special terminal. Real payment includes subtraction from their salary, removing the time required for paying with credit card, e-money or cash.

This experimental shop is not an automatic store as workers are still required to put orders and stock shelves. Nonetheless, by removing cashiers, a shop that might otherwise require two or three workers will only need one.

The model makes it possible to quickly shop with minimum waiting time. Seven-Eleven will think of starting this method at shops that are restricted to customers from factories and offices.

In the US, with Amazon Go, Amazon is leading the introduction of cashierless shops, where sensors and cameras look into what someone is purchasing and then the money is deducted when customers go out via special gates. Last January, the first shop started and the firm is believed to have the wish for growing it to almost 3000 locations by 2021.

Almost 70 firms, in China, including online shopping websites operators, are operating 1000 staff-free shops already, and more firms are crossing the business-category and business-segment obstacles to join the market.

Typically, cashier free shops utilize some way of verifying shoppers when they come in to avoid shoplifting, needing the customers to preregister themselves in order to shop in such stores.

It has been difficult for important comfort shop runners in Japan to grow in this way as their shopper base consists of everyone from kids to senior residents.

As now it is getting even more difficult to protect clerks, and with growing number of people utilizing cellphone applications to pay for things, retailers in Japan are looking for staff-free and minimal staffed shops.