Lawson Inc. will introduce unattended checkout counter services late at night at some of its stores, the first such step by a convenience store operator to tackle the labor shortage.

Lawson announced Monday it will start testing unattended operations at a few stores in Tokyo next spring with plans to put the service into practical use by February 2019.

The service will be effect from midnight to 5 a.m. Customers will enter and leave the store by holding a smartphone containing a special app up to a reader.

Customers will use their phone to scan product barcodes. Purchases will be made via a payment app such as Line Corp.’s Line Pay.

Lawson said shoplifters will be identified easily via the designated app. In addition, the company will increase the number of security cameras.

At least one worker will always be deployed during the unattended service hours, including for inventory checks.

Lawson will also carry out a test for robots that can automatically receive payments and put products into bags.

“We will streamline our business by using every technology, to continue 24-hour operations as part of the social infrastructure,” Lawson President and Chief Executive Officer Sadanobu Takemasu told a news conference.

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