Photo/IllutrationFamilyMart Saedo in Yokohama is testing a face-recognition system for shoppers. (Kazutaka Kamizawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Cashless purchases of items automatically scanned by a robot, dozens of surveillance cameras to prevent theft, and nary a staff member in sight.

All you need to do is show your face.

Leading convenience store chain FamilyMart Co. started testing face-recognition payment technology at a newly opened outlet in Yokohama on April 2.

With many chains struggling to fill staff shortages, urgent measures are necessary to create shops that can operate 24/7 with fewer staff members.

“What we have to do right now is save on labor and staff. We are looking at all possibilities,” said Takashi Sawada, president of FamilyMart.

FamilyMart Saedo, opened as a test outlet, includes a partitioned space separate from the normal retail area, with no staff stationed there.

The outlet introduced face-recognition technology developed by Panasonic Corp., which has a factory located nearby.

Currently, only Panasonic employees whose faces were registered in advance can use the face-recognition camera to open the wicket and enter the partitioned space.

When desired items are put in the center of the checkout, the price is automatically calculated and the money is withdrawn from a user's pre-registered credit card.

No fewer than 80 security cameras and infrared radiation sensors are installed in the general shopping area to detect customer movements and the number of products on shelves.

The information is displayed on screens held by staff members and alerts them if certain goods run out, or if the restroom needs to be cleaned.

The system is expected to save on labor for checking out items, as well as avoid missing sales opportunities owing to products being sold out.

FamilyMart will use the test outlet to check how operating efficiency is improved and decide whether to expand the system to other outlets.

Rival Seven-Eleven Japan Co. teamed up with NEC Corp. for its face-recognition system, which it is testing at an outlet in an NEC office building.