The Atrium Market, a store without checkouts, is due to open in the Student Centre in March, making it the first contactless shop in a UK university. Instead of paying at the end of a shop, customers will have to scan their payment card upon arrival – meaning they will be able to walk out of the store once they have picked up their shopping.The shop will replace the coffee tuktuk, which is run by the University’s catering partners.
While some students will surely miss interactions with members of staff, the Atrium Market’s speedy shopping experience should be of help to those balancing their studies with a job. For this reason, Mark Lawrence, from catering company Sussex Uni Food, is proud to help introduce the first “frictionless” university shop. “We are working with Amazon for the initial set up to install and implement the technology needed to make [shopping] a smooth experience for our customers,” Lawrence reported in December. The Atrium Market will then be run by Sussex Uni Food, which will respond to customers by re-stocking popular products.
Initially, the store will be selling Redroaster coffee, a favourite amongst Sussex students; a range of sandwiches and snacks; Tanpopo sushi and gyoza; baked goods; and Halal ready meals – all sourced by Sussex Uni Food’s local supply chain. Weighted shelves will detect which products have been selected, and will be confirmed by scanners at the store’s exit. Although the market will close when restocking, for the majority of the time, it will be open for the same hours as the Student Centre – 24/7.
The merging of technology and dining is not new to the university; since the updated catering contract was signed in the autumn term, there have been talks to introduce robot servers in Eat Central. While it will certainly be strange to walk out of a chalkboard-filled study room into a contactless store, students have expressed their excitement surrounding this 21st century shopping experience. “As well as offering a faster shop, contactless commerce means fewer surfaces will be touched, and it could even help students with social anxiety,” says one Sussex student. However, because the technology is so new, some students are unconvinced that the methods employed by the Atrium Market will be successful.
Work on the Atrium Market began in December and continues through the new semester, ahead of the March unveiling.