tech

Hudson Will Use Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ Tech in Airport Stores

Is it enough to revitalize a struggling sector?
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Francis Scialabba

· less than 3 min read

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Airport retailer Hudson is testing a new store concept with Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” tech. The 3D rendering doesn’t do this development justice, so allow me to break it down.

  • Travelers will scan their credit card to enter the new “Hudson Nonstop” stores.
  • After grabbing the latest John Grisham and a $15 granola bar, they can exit without stopping at a register. Purchases will be charged to shoppers’ cards once they leave.

ETA: The first store will open at Dallas’s Love Field Airport in Q1, but Hudson’s mum on exactly when (and where) it’ll open additional Nonstop stores. It’s also unclear if the 1,000+ convenience stores it already operates will get a contactless makeover.

Renovation redux

Airport outlets were once a coveted distribution channel for everyone from Bacardi to Lego to L’Oréal, as execs realized bored travelers would spend to pass time. “When a department store goes away, it’s not a major catastrophe,” Olivier Bottrie, Estée Lauder’s global president of travel retail, told the WSJ in 2019. “But if a major airport went away, it would be a major catastrophe.”

Enter: major catastrophe. The travel industry has plummeted in Covid-19’s wake, taking ambitions for airside malls with it.

And, like anyone who’s been randomly assigned an exit row seat, airport retailers now have responsibilities they weren’t prepared to handle.

  • Before, convenience stores wanted to encourage browsing and extra purchases; now, they’re about speed and social distancing.
  • In Hudson’s case, the Just Walk Out tech will allow its store staff to focus on restocking shelves and sanitizing high-touch surfaces.

Amazon’s an obvious partner as travel retailers recalibrate. Amazon planned to license its Just Walk Out tech to retailers as early as fall 2019; its first airport partnership hit the tarmac just as Covid went global last spring.

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