- Ahold USA is testing out a new front-of-store robot at its Giant Food Store in Lower Paxton Township, PA, according to PennLive.com. The robot, named Marty, will continually roam store aisles checking for out-of-stock items on shelves and scanning the floor for potential hazards.
- Marty is dark grey, taller than the average shopper, and sports two googly eyes. The information Marty collects is passed on to associates, so they can restock items or clear a mess on the floor. He is not intended to eventually replace a human worker, according to Patrick Maturo, manager of store optimization for Ahold USA.
- If Marty is found to be useful, Ahold USA plans to expand the pilot program with 12 additional robots in a variety of locations.
Shoppers anticipate certain things when visiting a grocery store. Gum and candy in the checkout isle. Samples perhaps near the cheese counter. But they do not come in with the expectation of seeing a tall, gray and slender robot slowly cruising down the aisles.
Marty's purpose is very similar to that of another robot being tested in three Schnucks Markets in Missouri. Both check shelves for out-of-stock items and mislabeled tags, and scan the floor for hazards. These areas are prone to human error and lack of oversight, so automating the process, so to speak, could reduce costly store shrink while also providing a safer environment for shoppers.
Marty may very well improve the shopping experience at his pilot store in Lower Paxton Township, PA. Shelves that are restocked more regularly mean greater availability of products, and no one would complain if aisles have fewer messes. Judging from a short video posted on PennLive.com, it seems Marty is delighting customers, some of whom will stop and grab a selfie with the googly-eyed robot.
Indeed, the robot engineered to do unglamorous maintenance work could very well become the star attraction at its test store. This could be especially true for shoppers with small children.
As store and supply chain technology advances, grocers are automating more of their processes. Retailers are also under pressure to cut costs while also offering a superior store experience. Robots like Marty could very well be a next step in this evolution. If both Marty and the robots currently testing at Schnucks are successful, this could be a sign of things to come at markets nationwide.