VIKEN, SWEDEN (MARCH 5, 2016) (REUTERS) – When Robert Ilijason broke a baby food jar and had to travel to the nearest big town to buy a new one, he decided his village needed a convenience store that is always open.
Ilijason lives in Viken, a village of around 4,200 inhabitants on Sweden’s east coast.
The closest big city is Helsingborg, which is a 20 minute drive away.
The concept of the unmanned store, which is located in the centre, is easy.
An app, linked to the user’s bank account is used to unlock the door and then turns the user’s phone into a scanner to register the groceries. An invoice follows at the end of the month.
“So once you’ve opened the door, the app automatically turns into scan mode and you can buy whatever you want to buy. So for instance, if I take this can of cat food, just find the Eoncode, I scan it and now I have it here in my app and I can confirm that I want to pay, I confirm that I bought this and then finalise and now it’s done and I’m ready to leave. After a month I get an invoice,” Ilijason explained.
For security, the door remains open for eight seconds and Ilijason has installed cameras in the store. The idea is member based and a credit check is done on new members, but ultimately the idea builds on trust.
The stores stocks dairy products, frozen and dried foods but the idea is that demand will eventually decide what is being stocked and Ilijason hopes that in the future he will be able to cooperate with local producers.
Ilijason, who is a technician, said it all started with a broken baby food jar and a screaming baby.
“The reason is that I was home alone with my kid, I was supposed to give him food, baby food, and I lost the canister of baby food and dropped it on the floor. It was the last one and I panicked and we needed to leave to get a new one and here in the village we didn’t have any open stores, we had to go to the big city and then I decided that we need a store here in the village that is always open. And of course having personnel 24/7 is too expensive so I used technology to solve that problem,” he said.
Customer Jesper Nilsson said a big advantage of the concept was that prices could be kept lower than in normal small countryside convenience stores.
“The size of this shop compares to other shops with the same size, small shops they tend to have higher prices and this one doesn’t. You have the normal price here of a normal super store. So I think that’s the best thing that you can keep the prices down,” he said.
For customer Mart Kielland Bjerke, convenience was the store’s biggest bonus.
“The best thing with shopping at ‘Naraffar’ is probably the convenience and the location being, you know, it’s a small place and it’s pretty much in the middle of two bigger stores. It’s very convenient. It’s open 24/7 so you’re able to get necessary products that you probably forgot in the store or that you feel like having late at night or early in the morning before the other grocery stores have opened,” she said.
Ilijason said he has plans to expand.
“The next step is to open a few more stores to make sure this concept works in scale and then we’ll see. Maybe we’ll scale up to all of Sweden and maybe even outside of Sweden. We’ll see,” he said.