You may soon be sharing aisle space at ShopRite with a robot. Tally is the divine answer to empty shelves and misplaced products. Roaming the aisles three or four times a day with its array of cameras, it spies the shelves looking for missing items and products with labels turned inward. When it finds a problem, it sends a message to an associate and the hole is filled. It also keeps track of inventory, so it knows it’s not sending a pointless alert.

Tally at a Schnuck’s store doing its rounds. Credit: Simbe

Tally is the progeny of Simbe Robotics, a California-based company that seeks to solve what it says is a huge problem in retail: empty shelves.

Simbe’s website points out that sometimes product is not on the shelf, not where it’s supposed to be, or not marked for a promo. They state that 1 in 10 products are not on the shelf when they should be, resulting in a global retail loss of $448 billion. This happens, they say, because associates are often too busy or not numerous enough to patrol the store while also helping customers. Tally will be that missing associate who’s only job it is to roam the aisles looking for issues. Simbe claims that this can free up 30 to 100 hours per week.

It isn’t yet known why Wakefern, ShopRite’s parent company, is interested in Tally, or even when the first robot is supposed to hit its stores. The best we have right now is a quote from a senior Wakefern official:

“Wakefern Food Corp. is committed to providing our customers best-in-class grocery shopping experiences,” said Charles J. McWeeney, VP of technology, innovation and strategy at Wakefern. “Tally’s technology is another tool to help our store operations and staff while creating new opportunities to maximize customer satisfaction.”

Wakefern’s Keasbey HQ. Testing of Tally may happen in a store near this location. Credit: Wakefern.

Wakefern no doubt has seen the success Tally can bring to a company through its time at stores like Giant Eagle, Schnuck’s, and Meijer’s. In the case of Schnuck’s, use of the robot has so far led to a 20% drop in out-of-stock items.

The most popular guess going around right now is that Wakefern will likely start testing the robot in a ShopRite close to its headquarters in Keasbey sometime this summer. So, keep an eye out. If you live around Middlesex county, the next aisle in ShopRite that you turn down could produce a little surprise named Tally.