Unmanned and Automated Store Opens in Mladá Boleslav, Offering 24/7 Convenience

In Mladá Boleslav, a forward-thinking concept has come to fruition with the opening of an automated and unmanned store, providing convenience and accessibility for residents. The store operates as a typical retail establishment during the day, with staff assisting customers as they shop. However, once the staff completes their shift at 6 PM, the store transitions into an automated mode, enabling 24/7 access to shoppers.

Customers can visit the store during the night, on weekends, and even on holidays. However, the key to entry lies in a mobile application and bank identification. Once customers are verified, the store’s doors open, allowing them to shop freely. Payments can be made using credit cards or smartphones before leaving, streamlining the purchasing process.

To maintain security and oversight, the entire store is equipped with a robust surveillance system, featuring more than twenty cameras. Lukáš Němčík, the director of development at Coop, the group responsible for this pioneering store, noted that while the surveillance system helps deter theft and misconduct, occasional incidents still occur. For instance, in Southern Bohemia, a group of young individuals was observed taking cans of beer from the shelves to create an impromptu bowling alley with a watermelon. However, the store’s operator swiftly identified the situation through the cameras and engaged with the group using the communication system, ensuring they paid for their items before exiting.

The concept of unmanned and automated stores is not entirely novel, as there are already over ten such stores operating across the country. According to Němčík, these stores have reported positive experiences, with fewer losses and thefts compared to traditional retail outlets.

These automated stores are particularly well-suited for rural areas where the costs of maintaining staffed operations can be prohibitive. Recognizing the need for social interaction, Coop has found a balance for older customers who may not easily adapt to the automated system. In rural areas, a combined operation model is maintained, with reduced staff working hours, usually around four hours per day. During the remaining time, the store transitions into automated mode, providing an option for commuters to conveniently shop on-site.

The nonstop operation of these stores is especially beneficial for shift workers in cities like Mladá Boleslav, providing them with the convenience of shopping outside regular store hours. Local residents have expressed appreciation for the opportunity to purchase groceries more conveniently on their way to or from work, even if it means using a mobile application for access.

Jiří Bouška, the deputy mayor of Mladá Boleslav, recognizes the positive impact of this 24/7 operation. He reminisces about a time when there were no nearby stores, and the only option was a mobile store that periodically visited the area. With the automated store now available around the clock, residents have improved access to essential goods.

While the automated store eliminates the need for traditional sales staff, the industry still faces a personnel shortage. Coop has opted not to lay off employees due to the introduction of automated stores but rather transfers them to areas experiencing staffing shortages.

The fully automated operation is well-suited for locations where it is challenging to find and retain long-term personnel, and where staffed operations may not be financially viable. Němčík revealed that many small communities have expressed interest in introducing such stores, and Coop is actively engaged in discussions with them regarding implementation.

Given the success of this automated store concept, it is likely that more unmanned and automated stores will emerge in the future, offering added convenience and accessibility to customers in various locations.

Article by Prague Forum

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