In March, the French network Auchan will open its first store “Minute” in Europe, in the French municipality of Villeneuve d’Ascq (near the border with Belgium). The compact store will not have cash or staff: shopping will be done entirely via a smartphone.
After many unsuccessful tests, Auchan Minute started operations in China in 2017: these container-sized mini-supermarkets are open 24 hours a day, which is possible due to the fact that no one works in these stores. From the moment of entering the center, to the moment of shopping, everything is done using a smartphone. In China, customers before entering the facility are identified through their account. Once inside, they choose products and scan bar codes. Payment is also made via the smartphone application.
It is not clear how this formula will be adapted to the French market, but in China the unmanned shop has become quite common: Auchan already has more than 750 “Minute” stores in major cities. The limited range is optimized for each location, and stock levels are automatically updated so that they can be supplemented if necessary with goods from the nearest hypermarket.
The development of the drive model is a way to maintain market share
To test the European version of this idea, the first store in this format will initially be available only to Auchan employees. After identification via smartphone, customers can enter a small store with an area of only 18 sq m. Auchan is already talking about further expansion throughout France if the test proves successful.
The French rival, Carrefour, will open a similar store in spring in the heart of Brussels: a 24/7 unmanned supermarket will have 60 sq m. and will offer 400 products.