We’ve seen unmanned restaurants in the past, but this is the first time we’re hearing of a completely staff-free convenience store. The shop, located in the Swedish village of Viken, is open 24×7, all year round; its doors can be unlocked at any time using a simple smartphone app. It’s pretty much like a physical version of an e-commerce website – customers walk in, pick up merchandise, and scan their purchases through the app. The entire transaction is completed within minutes.
The futuristic store is the brainchild of Viken resident Robert Ilijason, who came up with the idea when he ran out of baby food and had to drive 12.4 miles to find the nearest open shop. That’s when he realised that his village needed a 24×7 store for emergencies and developed an app called Näraffar (shop nearby) that can be used to manage such a place. The app was approved by Apple in January, and Robert launched the store in an old post office building. He claims that it has been running smoothly with no hiccups so far.
Customers who use the app are charged monthly for their purchases, and they even have the option of requesting items that are out of stock. “If people want pepper chips instead of salt and vinegar potato chips, they can ask for them,” Robert explained. “We should ask people what they want. It will be a support service in the app where people can write what they think the shop lacks.”
To combat thefts, Robert designed the system to identify customers using their BankID, a specific ID used by banks in Sweden. “So I know who you are and will only allow you in if you have no history of credit issues,” he explained. “Secondly, I have every inch of the store checked by at least one camera.” Robert explained that while his store has been a success from a tech standpoint, it hasn’t done very well in terms of turnover. But that’s what he expected, given that he opened it in a quiet village that already has two other stores. “That was expected as I intentionally opened in the wrong place,” he said. “I opened it there because that’s where I live. It will work better in other places.” “My ambition is to spread this to other small towns. This can be ‘General Store 2.0’.”