Retail robots coming to these grocery stores

Sector laser-focused on gaining new ground after industry upheaval.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributor on

Shelf-scanning robot Tally will be donning a new apron soon. Simbe, the company that makes the robot, announced its first deployment with Save Mart, the largest family owned grocery chain in California, which acquired 132 Albertsons stores in 2006 + has continued growing. 

Tally robots will be rolling out to 7 stores across all three Save Mart banners in the Bay Area to bring greater visibility to inventory, streamline operations for store teams and improve the customer experience.

This is an important milestone for a sector that's been fixated on wider adoption and sees a real opportunity in the shadow of COVID-19, despite notable setbacks and some in the industry questioning the value of retail robotics late last year. In November 2020, Walmart killed a large contract with Simbe competitor Bossa Nova, which also makes a robot for inventory auditing and data-driven inventory insights.

"The pandemic has further illuminated the critical need for strong on-shelf inventory data, and no retail solution provides this data with greater accuracy and fidelity than Tally," said Brad Bogolea, CEO and Co-Founder of Simbe Robotics. "Retailers are facing an ever-evolving landscape, and Tally provides a cost-effective solution that enables them to stay ahead of the curve, with improved operations and efficiency. Through our partnership together, The Save Mart Companies will build a more resilient supply chain and ensure the best possible experience for customers and store teams across all three of the company's banners."

Tally robots autonomously audit store shelves to ensure products are in stock and in the correct location on the sales floor. The real-time data and inventory insights collected by Tally help retailers reduce out-of-stocks by up to 30% and enable store teams to focus on servicing customers. As part of the pilot program, The Save Mart Companies will deploy Tally in three Save Mart stores in the Modesto area; two Lucky California stores in Dublin and San Ramon; and two FoodMaxx locations in Modesto and Tracy.

The data that these robots collect while roving aisles at retail locations, combined with powerful analysis, is meant to increase efficiency by solving for the $1.75 trillion "ghost economy," defined by out of stocks, inaccurate price execution, and lack of product location optimization industry-wide. With up-to-date inventory information, managers using robots like Simbe's flagship Tally robot can enact faster operational decisions at the store level and more nimble inventory management. The problem of poor stock management is so pervasive that inventory mishaps account for more lost revenue than theft.

A study conducted last year by a leading management consulting firm found that Tally has reduced out-of-stocks by 20%, ensuring customers find the items they're looking for and freeing up time for store employees to prioritize other tasks like assisting customers.

But effective technology doesn't always find its market, which is why partnerships are key right now and why pilots like the one with Save Mart is key to build necessary momentum as retailers embrace automation anew.

"Deepening our commitment to innovation with this pilot program is a reflection of The Save Mart Companies promise to our customers to ensure the best in-store experiences," said Hal Levitt, SVP of retail operations at The Save Mart Companies. "We're pleased to have a strong technology partner in Simbe to support us in testing a new, effective inventory management solution in our stores and allowing us to provide better product availability."


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