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Dive Brief:

  • Walmart Canada announced in a company blog post on Wednesday it is rolling out an automated solution that uses artificial intelligence from Focal Systems to reduce out-of-stocks. Stores across the chain in the country will be using the technology following a 70-store pilot.
  • The retailer is installing Focal’s computer vision cameras, which scan shelves at predetermined intervals and alert workers to restock the shelf when it finds an out-of-stock. 
  • The company noted that the technology is the latest of several in-store innovations by Walmart Canada aimed at improving the associate and customer experience.

Dive Insight:

By expanding its use of Focal, Walmart Canada said it’s looking to solve the “frustrating” experience customers and workers picking online orders face with out-of-stocks. The retailer said it has found a “game-changer” for the problem. 

“We know it can be disappointing for customers when we don’t have products they want available on our shelves. That’s why we initiated this pilot using technology from Focal Systems that takes the guesswork out of knowing when a product is out of stock,” Robin DeMers, director of store optimization for Walmart Canada, said in the announcement. 

Walmart Canada said it’s putting Focal’s AI solution in “popular” areas of its stores, such as grocery, pets, health & beauty, frozen and dairy departments. 

The blog noted that Focal’s technology integrates with the retailer’s existing inventory systems. 

With the rollout of Focal across Walmart Canada, the retailer claims it is one of the first retailers in the country to deploy an AI solution for on-shelf availability.

Focal’s website notes that it has trained its deep learning computer vision models from more than 1.4 billion labeled images captured from retailers around the world from more than 100,000 cameras.

Based in Silicon Valley and founded in 2015, Focal also has deployments in the U.S. The company announced in May a chainwide deployment with Cooportunity Market, an organic food cooperative in Los Angeles.

At the end of last year, Focal completed a $25.8 million Series B funding round. When announcing the financing, Focal said that it already had plans to deploy an additional 200,000 cameras in 2022. 

Earlier this year, Walmart Canada rolled out more than 1,500 Ring Scanners to stores to help associates pick online orders faster and also added technology to its Scarborough West Supercentre to allow for more than 1,200 daily online orders.

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