New Retail

Unmanned Stores will Conquer Europe

Unmanned stores – shopping solutions that offer complete independence and flexibility for the customer – blur the lines between online and offline consumption.

The 24/7 supply box ensures basic provisions even in rural areas, without personnel.

New Retail – this term stands for the ongoing transformation in FMCG in Chinese companies and major corporations. New Retail means the disappearance of the border between online and offline consumption in supermarkets.

The concept: Unmanned stores – shopping solutions that offer complete independence and flexibility for the customer. Ralf Kodritsch, Director Segment Manager RAIN RFID Solutions at NXP Semiconductors, is following the solution developments in Asia closely.

In an interview with RFID & Wireless IoT Global, he illustrates why unmanned stores present a viable option for the future for the ever-changing demands of the FMCG sector in Europe. The RFID expert is excited about the possibilities and the sustainability of New Retail concepts.

“Unmanned stores are not in direct competition with traditional brick & mortar stores. Quite the opposite. They create completely new opportunities for basic provision of food and other FMCG items on a large scale. This possibility should not be ignored by retailers.”

Ralf Kodritsch
Ralf Kodritsch
Director Global Segment Manager RFID Solutions
Gratkorn, Austria
Michael Klein
Michael Klein
Manager, Marketing Communications
Austin, United States

Sleeping Beauty: food retailing

The daily trip to the grocery store has not changed much in the past few years. Even as more and more large-scale shopping centres – sometimes with more than 100 stores – are being built, the process of shopping is still mostly the same. This is especially true when considering food retailing. Numerous supermarket employees are stocking the shelves and long checkout lines are a common occurrence.

At the same time, more and more corner stores are closing down – especially in rural areas. This does not yet lead to an acute undersupply. But already realising the solutions for tomorrow's challenges today would be the silver bullet.

We are growing older…

The population in Europe is ageing. In 1990, the median age in the 27 EU member states, splitting the population into a young half and an old half, amounted to around 35 years of age. In the past 28 years, this median has risen to nearly 43 years of age. According to estimations, this might continue increasing until the early 2040s, rising to 47 years of age. On the one hand, people are living longer. On the other hand, fewer children are being born compared to the previous decades.

…and are fewer in number

According to current population projections, up until 2080 there will not be a year in which the birth rate can make up for the number of deaths – despite the fact that research scientists estimate that the birth rate will increase. Nonetheless, the EU will most likely continue growing – from currently 510 million inhabitants to 529 million, between now and 2050. Demographic researchers assume the EU will attract more people from other continents in the future.

In the case that immigration does not occur as extensively as expected, Europe’s growth will most likely stagnate. These developments will have consequences that the EU member states are well aware of.

Will New Retail support improvements in people's lives?

Simple solutions are required. Although the activities in China which are part of New Retail strive for a different goal, the concept could be the key to securing basic provisions for everyone. Unmanned stores, outfitted with the latest wireless IoT technology, make flexible, independent shopping possible. Smart vending machines and practically location-independent sales boxes pave the way for such flexibility.

Unmanned stores are not rocket science

The concept of unmanned stores, which are already booming in Asia, do not require new technology to be realised. All the components are already there – in the portfolios of IoT hardware manufacturers. On the other hand, New Retail concepts could advance item level tagging in the FMCG industry, which so far has proven difficult for manufacturers and retail companies.

THIS IS ME – Welcome Grocery-in-a-Box !

The 24/7 supply box. Ensures basic provisions even in rural areas, without personnel. Across a space of 40 square metres, I provide all the necessities for everyday life.

Shop for the necessities at any time

An unmanned store has no opening and closing times. Customers can shop whenever they like. The authentication via NFC-enabled smartphone or card gives access to the store. RFID labels prevent manipulations and make the shopping experience secure.

If every product on the shelf is tagged with an RFID label, there is no need to scan it at the self-checkout. Optionally, customer service can be provided via live video chat. The customer can pay via credit card or make a “seamless” payment via NFC-enabled smartphone application.

Reduce carbon footprint

New Retail can bring the shop directly to the customer – not the other way around. The situation in rural areas is similar across Europe. People who do not have direct access to metropolitan areas or live in a medium- or large-size city are dependent on a car. This means that the trip to the grocery store adds to their personal carbon footprint. Unmanned stores drastically shorten the drive, save time during shopping, and relieve stress on the environment.

Daily changing offers are made possible

Unmanned stores, due to their complete digitalisation, are perfectly prepared to react quickly to changing demands. The employed RFID technologies make this possible. Take the vending machine as an example: The mechanics of traditional machines only allow for the same product palette every day.

In an unmanned store, the inventory management can be carried out in real time. The positioning of a product in a vending machine or in a sales box is completely unimportant. Thanks to RFID, each product is tracked uniquely, no matter where it is placed.

Flexible and temporary

As soon as questions of liability have been answered and permission for installation has been given, a sales box can be installed practically anywhere. Power supply and an internet connection are the only two requirements. The box can quickly be disassembled, transported somewhere else, and reassembled on short notice. With such a box, retailers can be flexible and react quickly to changing demands, without being tethered to real estate contracts. The lack of required personnel further increases the flexibility.

Basic provisions can be ensured on a large scale

The provisioning of food items is a critical aspect of a state’s infrastructure. This basic provisioning is on the same level as securing the power and water supply as well as primary health care. Therefore, it is in the interest of the government and society that all inhabitants can live without having to worry about having access to necessities. In times of an ageing demographic and growth in metropolitan areas, unmanned stores can counteract insufficient supply.


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