Unmanned grocery stores take over Sweden’s countryside
You will not see any cashiers or staff in these stores
The demographic decline in rural Europe is creating its own kind of impact that is affecting the lives of people living there. Population density is directly correlated with the availability of services. Many smaller grocery stores in the countryside have closed their doors for good, leaving the remaining residents in the middle of what can be described as “food desserts”.
Lifvs, a Stockholm-based start-up, has, however, decided to reverse this trend with the help of the benefits of digitalisation and smart tech. More than 20 unmanned grocery stores have already been placed in various rural locations in Sweden.
All willing customers need to do is sign up for an app that gives them a key to the store. They can then scan the barcodes for the products they want to download with their phones. The money will be deducted directly from their accounts.
A mom-and-pop store for the digital age
The other factor that blew some strong winds in the project’s sails was the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting need for social distancing. The unmanned stores do not require social contact, which means that no staff would have to be exposed to risks that cashiers and other staff are in the traditional supermarkets.
True, the Lifvs stores are not supermarkets, they are more of a convenience store where you pop in to fill the fridge with what is needed or have a snack or two. Still, they provide a valuable and much-needed service by bringing that kind of convenience back to the countryside, where people often have to drive long distances and plan their grocery shopping in advance.
Their small size makes them comfortable in another way as well. They are prefabricated in another place and are then easy to transport on a truck and placed in a convenient place, ready to go when connected to the grid.
There are company representatives who travel to refill and clean the stores three times a week and reportedly see if there are any missing products. Artificial intelligence comes in handy because it keeps track of inventory and warns of exhaustive stocks.
The shops are available 24 hours a day and of course there are cameras that could record any case of shoplifting or burglary, but the inter-municipal trust and respect for the law is high in the Scandinavian country. It is also one of the most cashless communities, so the implementation of that kind of shopping just seems natural.