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Unmanned Supermarkets To The Rescue In Sweden’s Rural Areas

A brand new kind of store has sprung up of their wake: unmanned supermarkets in cell containers.

Enkoping, Sweden:

One after one other, grocery shops are shutting down in rural Sweden, leaving villagers to journey miles to purchase meals. But a brand new kind of store has sprung up of their wake: unmanned supermarkets in cell containers.

In Veckholm, a village of some hundred folks 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Stockholm, the final grocery retailer closed greater than a decade in the past. Then, a year-and-a-half in the past, even the little comfort retailer on the solely petrol station locked its doorways.

Villagers had been left with no alternative however to journey a half-hour by automobile to the closest grocery store.

But in July 2020, an automatic, unmanned grocery retailer got here to city.

In a container dropped in the midst of a subject, open 24 hours a day, the 20-square-metre (215-square-foot) grocery store sells a whole bunch of things — and there isn’t any cashier in sight.

“Since a while back, there has been nothing in this area and I think most of us living here have really missed that,” mentioned Giulia Ray, a beekeeper in Veckholm.

“It’s so convenient to have this in the area,” she informed AFP, doing her personal purchasing and restocking the store’s cabinets along with her honey on the identical time.

Shoppers unlock the grocery store’s door with an app on their smartphone. 

“We come here three times a week and buy stuff we need,” Lucas Edman, a technician working within the area for a number of weeks, informed AFP.

“It’s a little bit more expensive but it’s fine. It’s a price I can pay to not go to another store.”

He scanned his pizzas and soda on the app on his cellphone, which is linked to his checking account and a nationwide identification system — an added anti-theft safety, in accordance with the shop.

And it is all executed beneath the watchful eye of a single safety digicam.

Keeping prices down

In Sweden, the variety of grocery shops — every part from superstores to small comfort shops — has dropped from 7,169 in 1996 to five,180 in 2020, in accordance with official statistics.

While the variety of superstores has virtually tripled in 24 years, many rural outlets have closed down, usually due, like elsewhere in Europe, to an absence of profitability.

Daniel Lundh, who co-founded the Lifvs, has opened virtually 30 unmanned shops in rural Sweden and in city areas with no outlets previously two years.

“To be able to keep low prices for the customer, we have to be able to control our operation costs. So that means controlling the rent — that’s why the stores are quite small — but also controlling the staffing cost,” Lundh mentioned.

He plans to open his first unstaffed supermarkets outdoors Sweden early subsequent yr.

Domenica Gerlach, who manages the Veckholm retailer, solely comes by as soon as per week to obtain deliveries. She additionally manages three different outlets, all of them cell containers.

Peter Book, the mayor of Enkoping, the municipality to which Veckholm belongs, has solely good issues to say concerning the three container shops which have opened in his patch. 

And he’d wish to see extra.

“It makes it easier to take a step to move there if you know you have this facility,” he mentioned.

Meeting place and ‘salvation’

In Sweden, probably the most digitalised international locations on the earth, Lifvs, like its Swedish rivals AutoMat and 24Meals which have additionally popped up in rural areas, advantages from a really wired inhabitants.

In 2019, 92 % of Swedes had a smartphone.

Ironically, the unmanned outlets — plopped down in the midst of nowhere — additionally play a task as a “meeting place” for locals.

“You come here, you get some gas and you go inside and get something, and maybe someone else is here and you can have a chat,” Ray mentioned.

Mayor Book echoed the notion, saying the shops make it potential to “connect society”.

The pandemic has additionally confirmed the shops’ usefulness, since no contact with different folks contained in the store is critical.

Because of Covid-19, just one individual at a time is allowed contained in the Veckholm retailer.

“My mother lives nearby as well and … this has been a shop she could actually enter during all this time. She hasn’t been (able to go) anywhere,” Ray mentioned of her 75-year-old mom.

“This has been a salvation for her.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV workers and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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