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Metropolitan Market joins the shelf technology movement

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Metropolitan Market is the latest supermarket operator to implement digital technologies that are designed to optimize ordering, inventory management, merchandising, and the use of in-store labor.

In a pilot with San Francisco-based Focal Systems, Metropolitan Market, which has nine locations (and a 10th scheduled to open) across Washington State, is deploying hundreds of tiny, inexpensive shelf cameras that digitize shelves hourly.

The Focal Systems Operating System (FocalOS) will then use the data to automate many in-store processes to achieve greater operating efficiencies, the companies said. Benefits include accurate just-in-time ordering; the replacement of the manual daily out-of-stock scan with automated hourly scans; improvements in product availability for customers by increasing the productivity of replenishment staff; and reductions in food waste with better produce ordering, the companies said. 

“In a rapidly evolving world, it’s our duty to continue innovating in order to provide the best possible experience for shoppers at all of our locations,” Ron Megahan, Metropolitan Market chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Focal System said it has raised more than $40 million in venture capital funding and claims that its technology delivers a 50x return on investment. 

“As the groundswell of AI and computer vision adoption takes hold across retail and grocery, early adopters, like Metropolitan Market, will see optimizations and enhancements across the in-store experience for customers, and in the backroom for staff, completely transforming the shopping experience and separating them from other retailers in the industry,” Francois Chaubard, Focal Systems’ founder and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Metropolitan Market is the most recent retailer to harness the computer-vision AI solution. 

Last September, Mississauga, Ontario-based Walmart Canada said that it was deploying the Focal Systems technologychainwide following a 70-store pilot. The retailer began testing the Focal Systems platform in 2020 and expanded it to additional stores across the country in 2021.

In addition, Piggly Wiggly Midwest last September announced that it was piloting the system at stores in Wisconsin and Illinois.


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