morrisons staff uniforms

Morrisons is racing to employ thousands of AI-powered cameras across its UK stores by the end of the year, after trials showed they significantly improved availability and increased the efficiency of staff.

The supermarket has become the first UK retailer to make use of the US-originated technology, in a tie-up with Seattle-based AI company Focal Systems. It plans to roll the cameras out across its UK store estate by the end of the year.

CEO Rami Baitiéh has identified improving patchy availability as the key priority for his turnaround at the retailer, with the cameras able to provide real-time on-shelf data and automatically direct staff to where stocks are running low.

But Focal Systems says its technology has the capability to automate all decision-making in store, from merchandising, ordering and pricing to staffing and task and labour management.

The Grocer understands Morrisons has seen significant increases in availability scores in stores which have been piloting the technology, and hopes it will allow staff to spend more time focusing on delivering customer service, another key focus for Baitiéh.

It is also believed to be part of a plan by the former Carrefour boss to improve communications with suppliers about where customer priorities lie.

Whilst at Carrefour, Baitiéh developed a so-called ‘555 matrix’, which focused on staff always being available to serve the customer, and which he said hinged on getting availability right.

“The products must be available,” he once said.

Focal Systems announced in 2022 it was working in partnership with the BRC to offer its services to UK supermarkets, having raised more than $40m in VC funding.

It has previously been employed across thousands of Walmart stores in Canada.

Jeremy Pugh, VP of sales at Focal Systems, said on launch of the BRC partnership that the company had a “mission to automate retail globally”.

He added: “Given the severity of the current labour and supply chain challenges that UK retailers face, there is nobody who needs this technology more.

“Our partnership with the BRC will enable us to best help the UK retail community overcome these challenges and continue to serve their customers.”

Toby Pickard, global insight leader at IGD, said: “This is an interesting technology advancement by Morrisons, that should help enhance the in-store shopping experience and improve its operations.

“Over recent years, IGD has seen many retailers trialling shelf-edge cameras to monitor stock availability. What is most surprising about this initiative is the speed at which they are moving from trial to full rollout.

“It is aiming to have the solution in every store by the end of summer, which implies the trials have been successful.

“Other retailers that have used the same technology have found it helps store staff to respond quicker to out-of-stocks, mitigating potential lost sales, and improves the overall shopping experience. It will also allow Morrisons to manage in-store operations more efficiently.

“To succeed in the future, more retailers must start their digital transformation journey. In an increasingly digitised retail industry, they need to be modernising store operations to stay ahead. This will be a continual process, but those that don’t embrace technology risk being left behind.”