A futuristic new store just opened in the Retail Innovation Lab on McGill University's downtown Montreal campus, and it's so high-tech that you can leave without paying for stuff you take — at least not in the traditional sense.
The store — a partnership between McGill University and Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. — is designed as a "live testing ground" for retail innovation, including "frictionless technologies" that allows for contactless check-out.
By combining artificial intelligence and retail management, this retail innovation lab [...] will allow our researchers [...] to improve the customer experience.
Morty Yalovsky, Desautels Faculty of Management
According to a McGill news release, the customer uses an app to unlock the door and enter the Couche-Tard Connecté section of the lab, which operates as a store.
As the customer walks around the Connecté store, any items they select will be "recognized in real-time."
The payment will then be processed automatically in the app, it says, meaning the customer can simply pick up items and walk out.
The lab is one of Canada's first retail laboratory stores open to the public and one of the first frictionless stores in Canada.
Designed by Professor Maxime Cohen of the Desautels Faculty of Management and Professor James Clark of the Faculty of Engineering, the lab aims to research and test new ways of "improv[ing] the customer experience for the retail sector."
Research themes include helping customers make "healthier, more sustainable choices," and finding the "right balance between personalization and privacy."
"We are confident that the research projects and technologies successfully tested at the lab may eventually be implemented in some of our 14,220 stores across our global network," said Deborah Hall Lefevre, chief technology officer at Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., which owns Circle K and Mac's Convenience Stores in addition to Couche-Tard.
McGill students will also use the lab for "on-site experiential learning," the release says.
The lab is currently open at reduced hours for a limited number of customers due to COVID-19 health protocols.
It is located on the ground floor of the Bronfman Building at 1001, rue Sherbrooke O.