HAVE a mad case of the midnight munchies? No problem. An unmanned retail store is set to be the next zany idea from European startup Wheelys.
The unusual store will allow customers to buy snacks and treats, including chocolate, cigarettes and potato chips, at any time of the day or night.
“We’ve been thinking about how to make shopping more innovative, effective and cheaper for people to start a cafe or retail in general,” Wheelys co-founder and CEO Maria De La Croix said.
The idea builds on the already pioneering work that Wheelys has done on their mobile cafe idea.
The inventory management software that is utilized by its mobile cafe owners can also be adapted to work in the supermarket retail sector.
Wheelys currently ensures that its cafes are well-stocked at all times by keeping tabs on all items sold through its mobile app. So when a product is running low, Wheelys will know to resupply the owners with exactly what they need.
This same technology can be used in their upcoming stores. Customers to their 24-7 outlets will use a mobile app to scan and purchase items.
That in mind, the obvious question is, what will they do about theft? Surely an unmanned room full of snacks and ciggies could prove too enticing for some.
But Wheelys has a solution.
The mobile app will be required to enter the store, so the customers’ details will be readily available, and video cameras will be watching at all times to ensure honesty.
Wheelys also operates a cashier-free store in Sweden, which it debuted last year, in response to the lack of options for late night shopping in the small village of Viken.
While this is an innovative idea, Wheelys wasn’t the first to get in on the action. Amazon is famously testing a cashier-free, app-based store in Seattle that focuses on supplying ready-to-eat meals and snacks, prepared by employees at the store.
But Wheelys is one of the first startups to venture into the field.
The company hopes their innovation will open up the retail market to small scale entrepreneurs who will be able to utilize their technology in order to take advantage of unmanned retail space.
The dream for De La Croix is that unmanned stores will eventually become the norm rather than the exception.
“I believe in five to 10 years, all stores will look like this,” she said.
As convenience becomes customers’ most important selling-point, these unmanned 24-hour stores will likely start popping up in a town near you soon.