Briefing

Walmart adding robots to 650 U.S. stores as grocery fight with Amazon intensifies

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The shelf-scanning robots are already in 350 stores, scanning shelves and notifying humans when items are out of stock. The new robots, which should be in stores by summer, are thinner and can scan fresh produce. (Bloomberg, TechCrunch)

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Talking point: Walmart is increasingly relying on robots to drive down labour costs and increase efficiency as part of its battle with Amazon. These shelf-scanners do a job twice a day that used to take up to two weeks. Today’s news will put the devices in about a fifth of Walmart’s U.S. stores. Walmart’s automation push includes robots that process grocery delivery orders, unveiled last week. The firm also has robots that clean floors, pickup towers that can dispense online orders in less than a minute and automated unloaders that scan and sort items as they come off trucks. By at least one metric, all this is helping Walmart keep ahead of Amazon in the grocery space: a survey last month from The Retail Feedback Group found 37 per cent of online shoppers chose Walmart for online groceries, compared to 29 per cent for Amazon.