Wednesday, 9 March 2016

How to save the high street - don't employ anybody


So it seems:

Customers simply use their cellphones to unlock the door with a swipe of the finger and scan their purchases. All they need to do is to register for the service and download an app. They get charged for their purchases in a monthly invoice.

The shop has basics like milk, bread, sugar, canned food, diapers and other products that you expect to find in a small convenience store. It doesn't have tobacco or medical drugs because of the risk of theft. Alcohol cannot be sold in convenience stores in Sweden.

"My ambition is to spread this idea to other villages and small towns," said Ilijason. "It is incredible that no one has thought of his before."

He hopes the savings of having no staff will help bring back small stores to the countryside. In recent decades, such stores have been replaced by bigger supermarkets often many miles (kilometers) away.

Of course nothing is quite as simple as this - the shelves still have to be stocked and someone has to manage that stock, deliver that stock and handle customers. But the principle - that the simple process of buying a loaf of bread and some cheese can be entirely dehumanised - still stands and means that the advantage supermarkets have over local stores is diminished.

However, it does seem to me that the big losers in this battle (perhaps not in Sweden though) aren't the big hypermarkets with 100,000 lines and sophisticated delivery systems but rather the expanding market of small convenience stores run by those same stores. I suspect that, while this system will challenge 24-hour opening, the market for crisps and baby food at three in the morning is pretty limited.

Interesting stuff though.


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