COOP plans to open 50 new automatic stores in the Czech Republic by the end of 2024
The COOP cooperative chain plans to open at least 50 new automatic stores in the Czech Republic by the end of 2024, where customers can buy goods outside normal opening hours, for example at night or at the weekend, without the presence of a staff. It currently has ten automatic stores and is a partner in others. Lukáš Němčík, COOP's director of development and marketing, told a press conference in Prague today. According to Pavel Hartmann, project and sales manager of Knowinstore, a company that deals with technical solutions for automatic stores, there are currently about 20 such stores in the Czech Republic.
"Based on our experience, it turns out that the automatic sales system is an ideal solution for shops in villages or smaller towns," said Nemcik. According to him, unattended operations account for about one-tenth of a shop's sales. He added that, compared to initial expectations, theft is not a big problem. In fact, customers enter the automated stores using their bank identity. "People are aware that they are making a lot of their personal information available," he said. The COOP chain has teamed up with CSOB and Mastercard to open new automated outlets, which are putting up a combined 10 million crowns, he said.
"There is quite a dynamic growth this year compared to 2022, when there were six outlets. As of September 1, 2023, 14 new outlets have been added and about eight more are expected by the end of the year," he said. About 40,000 customers have already shopped at the automated stores in the country, and feedback has been mostly positive, he said. "According to our survey, customers welcome the freedom to shop at any time and the availability of everyday goods even in more remote locations where such stores previously did not exist or were already closed when people returned from work," he added.
For those who may not know how to use a bank identity, some automated stores also offer card or chip entry, Hartmann added. There are several dozen automated shops in Germany and Poland, he said, while the concept has not yet been developed in Austria and Slovakia, he said.
More than 70 percent of the Czech Republic's territory is rural, but less than a third of the country's population lives there, according to Tomas Dubský, vice chairman of the Union of Local Authorities. Therefore, basic services are important to ensure the quality of life of rural residents, Dubský told a press conference.
The first automatic grocery store in the Czech Republic opened in Strakonice last March, operated by COOP. However, the Super Zoo company also has automatic stores with supplies for animals. The first one opened at the end of 2022 in Týn na Vltavou. The aim, according to chief operating officer Luboš Rejchrt, was to optimise costs.
The next automatic Super zoo store will be in Pardubice, opening there at the beginning of October this year, he added. "The live animals are hidden behind a security opaque roller shutter outside normal opening hours, when no staff is available," he said. A shop called Féér self-service shop has also previously started operating in Bítovany in the Chrudim region of Pardubice with the help of the regional government.
Source: COOP and CTK