Kmart to launch self-navigating robots in stores by Christmas

Kmart is introducing a whole new type of worker onto the shopping floor in the form of self-navigating robots.

The robots, dubbed ‘Tory,’ will be used for stocktake in real-time. Kmart says the inventory counting machines will be rolled out in most stores by Christmas.

‘Tory’ bots are designed to move around Kmart stores counting and marking stock that’s in the wrong place to ensure the retailer has a more accurate idea of what products are available, and to avoid running out of sought-after items.

Kmart’s adult-sized robots sport a bright pink base and three cube-shaped sensors stacked on top of one another with a sign that reads: “Hi! I’m Tory! Don’t mind me, I’m just counting stock on our shelves. No need to move out of my way… I’ll go around you!”

The introduction of the robots was announced via a TikTok video, taken in a Kmart store in Burwood, Sydney. Wall-e looks different here. (🎥: @Paria) #kmart #australia #robot #shopping #fyp ♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

Kmart Chief Customer Officer, Lil Velis, said the robots will ultimately help more customers get the stock they want and that knowing what products were available was a key part of consumer satisfaction when shopping with the retailer.

The robots operate through radio frequency identification (RFID) and are designed to count inventory in the stores overnight.

However, bots have been spotted in stores during trading hours, leading to mixed reviews from Kmart employees and shoppers alike.

“Oh…no, I would run if I saw that in my store,” one man said.

“This is how the machines take over,” said another.

Some shoppers have also raised concerns that the presence of the robots could lead to job losses. Kmart has not released a comment detailing how the introduction of the robots may impact its current workforce.

While some businesses in Australia use robotic automation and services, ‘Tory’ stands out as a consumer-facing robot, with a physical presence and an ability to work alongside people.

The first ‘Tory’ bot was introduced to a singular Kmart store in Burwood, but the brand says that more robots will be introduced and appear across Kmart stores in Australia by late 2022.

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