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Pay $99 a year and you could join a 24-hour supermarket, Farmhouse Market, located in the small town of New Prague, Minn., where you can shop anytime you wish for organic foods, including locally grown fruits and vegetables and fresh meats. Customers select their purchases and easily checkout using an iPad. For those technically challenged, the store is manned nine hours per week with a cashier. The concept is based on trusting shoppers, with the able assist of surveillance cameras.
In Sweden, an empty 480-square-foot post office has been converted into an unmanned convenience store with the staples like milk, bread, sugar, canned foods, and diapers no alcohol, cigarettes or medicines. Customers download an app, which also opens the store’s door, scan the barcode of those items they wish to purchase and are charged monthly for their purchases. Security cameras and even an alarm that notes when the door is left open for more than 8 seconds protect the store. What’s driving this trend? Or is it just a fad?
The University of Minnesota published a study that reports that up to 62 percent of rural grocery store owners plan on closing their stores within the next ten years, citing low profit margins and higher costs. Quite possibly signaling the increase of the amount of food desserts in rural America. While shoppers some may decide to buy their groceries on line from large nationwide players like Amazon, the accessibility to fresh foods might be scarce. One other note in the Univesity’s report showed that the majority of these small town grocers actually own the stores, but almost half are 50 years old or older, putting even more economic pressure on these owners.
Be prepared…..an unmanned grocery store might just be coming to a town near you very soon.