Thursday 29 September 2016

First unmanned food store opens in Sweden

Published 29/02/2016 | 12:26

Swedish IT entrepreneur Robert Ilijason shows how to use a mobile phone to scan a purchase at his unmanned shop in the southern Sweden village of Viken (AP)
Swedish IT entrepreneur Robert Ilijason shows how to use a mobile phone to scan a purchase at his unmanned shop in the southern Sweden village of Viken (AP)

A Swedish IT specialist has opened the country's first unmanned, 24-hour convenience store.

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Robert Ilijason, 39, said he was inspired after a chaotic late-night scramble to buy baby food with a screaming toddler in the back seat.

Customers at the store in Viken, southern Sweden, use their mobile phones to unlock the door with a swipe of the finger and scan their purchases.

All they need to do is 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, nappies and other products that you expect to find in a small convenience store. It does not 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 Mr 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 In recent decades, such stores have been replaced by bigger supermarkets often many miles away.

Mr Ilijason receives deliveries at the shop and stacks products on the shelves. Then he lets the customers do the rest.

He has installed six surveillance cameras to discourage shoplifting in the 480-square-foot store. Also, he is alerted by a text message if the front door stays open for longer than eight seconds or if someone tries to break it open.

"I live nearby and can always run down here with a crowbar," Mr Ilijason said laughing, but added that has not been necessary since the store opened in January.

A bigger challenge has been getting some of the elderly residents in Viken, a town of 4,200 people, to get the hang of the technology involved.

Tuve Nilsson, 75, said there were many more shops in the town when he moved here with his family in 1976. He welcomed Mr Ilijason's new store, saying it could be convenient for elderly people living alone.

"But if they can manage this (technology), I don't know," Mr Nilsson said. "Sometimes I don't understand it."

Mr Ilijason is considering other ways to unlock the door that would not require using an app.

He has ruled out face-recognition or fingerprint scanners, but is thinking of installing a credit card reader like some banks use. He is also considering having one person man the store for a few hours a day to help customers who are not comfortable with modern technology.

Other customers loved the speed of the no-service store. Raymond Arvidsson, a friend of Mr Ilijason, did his shopping in less than a minute.

"No queues," he said, smiling. "Quick in, quick out. I like."

Press Association

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