Payments startup Square on Tuesday announced a partnership with Whole Foods Market, making it the company’s biggest in-store retail deal since teaming up with Starbucks in 2012.
Through the agreement, Square’s first with a national grocery chain, customers at select Whole Foods stores will be able to skip the main checkout lines to pay at specific in-store venues using Square’s point-of-sale (POS) system. These include sandwich counters, juice and coffee bars, pizzerias, and beer are wine bars that are equipped with the Square Stand -- hardware that includes a card reader and supports a full iPad-based register.
The rollout has kicked off with seven Whole Foods stores already using Square Stand in Austin, New York City, Florida and the San Francisco Bay Area. Eventually, all 367 Whole Foods stores nationwide will have the Square system, which also includes its Register app for merchants.
“Together with Square, we’ll deliver options to expedite checkouts, and we look forward to developing new concepts to further simplify and improve grocery shopping,” stated Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market.
At select venues, Whole Foods will allow customers to use their mobile devices to pay using Square Wallet, its consumer payments application, instead of swiping a credit or debit card. The app will also allow shoppers to browse venue items and prices, discover discounts and track purchases.
Several Whole Foods will serve as “lab stores,” testing further innovations around Square to improve customer service. Because of its “digital-savvy” customer base, the grocery company said it views itself as a natural fit with Square, citing its social media channels reaching more than 7 million followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Even more than Starbucks, Whole Foods caters to an upscale set of consumers; using Square will hold appeal as an advance in POS technology.
“With Square, Whole Foods Market will enable commerce in more parts of their stores with easy, accessible tools that showcase the best of what’s achievable in the service of retailers and customers,” stated Square co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey in the release.
The rollout of Square at Starbucks’ 7,000 stores has not been without bumps, according to a Fast Company article last year, especially when it comes to paying with the Square Wallet app. Perhaps that’s partly why the ability to pay with the app is only being offered on a limited basis now at Whole Foods, using some stores as testing labs.
With so much venture money behind Square, it won’t be surprising to see the company try to line up partnerships with national retailers at a faster pace. To date, it has received a whopping $341 million in funding from investors including Khosla Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.