Walmart and its big-box warehouse subsidiary Sam’s Club are suing rival retailer BJ’s Wholesale Club, accusing BJ's of stealing technology that powers a popular self-checkout option in the Sam’s Club mobile app. The lawsuit, filed in federal court this week, claims Walmart worked for years to develop Scan & Go, a feature that lets Sam’s Club customers ring up purchases on their smartphones while walking through the store, allowing them to avoid a checkout line. It also notes that Walmart holds multiple patents protecting the intellectual property for the self-checkout feature, which debuted in 2016. Walmart alleges its “innovations were simply taken without permission” by BJ’s, which launched its contactless offering, ExpressPay, in late 2021.
Total Retail's Take: Contactless checkout, pioneered by Amazon.com and now adopted by a small number of other retailers, is viewed by many industry analysts as an added convenience to entice shoppers back into brick-and-mortar stores while still maintaining some forms of social distancing post-pandemic — not to mention speeding up the in-store shopping experience. And since the scan-and-go technology is so limited in its current use, Walmart considers it a competitive advantage and unsurprisingly is protective of it. Furthermore, it's in direct competition with BJ's for market share among cost-conscious warehouse shoppers. The court's ruling could mark an important junction in that battle between two of the leading warehouse club operators.