Coop opened the first automatic store in the Czech Republic. It works 24/7, a mobile phone lets you in at night

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It started Amazon years ago in the USA. He opened small shops unattended and without the cash registers you came to, picked up the goods and left. Technology calculated the price, paid the mobile phone in your pocket, or identified the user using a palmprint. Today, there are 24 of them, there is no talk of a mass deployment, and Amazon says it is a technology demo, the costs are higher than if the store was staffed.

Then Scandinavia joined. Small so-called container stores have up to a thousand items, the concept has caught on, investments are flowing into it and the plan to open on average once a day for the next three years. Žabka, which uses sensor systems, is involved in Poland. In the last three years, self-service cash registers have been expanding in our country, and they have a scan & go concept in Globus, Kaufland.

But only now is the concept of a completely automatic and self-service store coming to the Czech Republic. There is no big technology company behind it, but at first glance a somewhat unlikely name that they know even in small villages: Coop.

But repair only at first glance. Coop is close to innovation, has an e-shop, can bring purchases to its customers, seeks low-energy stores, uses green energy, some stores have solar panels, seeks to sell regional products, cash registers can cashback, payment of vouchers, v Dispensing boxes are available in stores, etc. It is no coincidence that Coop won the title of Merchant of the Year in the Innovation of the Year 2021 category.

So far, two stores

The concept does not come from scratch, the inspiration comes from Coop, Norway, MasterCard cooperated in the implementation of the Czech project, the technical solution was provided by the Knowinstore company.

The first store opened on 16 March 2022 in Strakonice. It is relatively small, has 80 m2 and about 2,500 items. The second will open in June in Český Krumlov and will have 3 times larger sales area. The third does not yet have an opening date or location, but on the contrary will be a smaller, so-called container store with about a thousand items – such can be placed in small villages, in larger factories…

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The Coop store in Strakonice is located at Podskalská 59, about 100 meters below the statue of the famous Strakonice bagpiper (you can also see it in the photo).
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This is basically the whole store, 80 m2. You buy alcohol in it, only adults can get in. The only limitation is the unavailable service counter with weighed sausages, etc. It is hidden behind the metal blind in the night mode of the store (and in the first photo).
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An automatic cash register and a third scanner next to it – it will take you back to the street after payment.

Then Coop takes a break. It will collect data, solve potential problems, evaluate the economic effect of new technology. Only on the basis of the analysis will a strategy for further dissemination of the self-service concept emerge.

How does it work

During the day, the store operates in normal mode with regular staff, after closing time it switches to self-service mode. This switching takes place in a matter of seconds, in fact it involves lowering the blinds and activating the systems.

  1. A simple guide is posted on the self-service store, at the beginning of which there is a QR code for downloading the Contio service application (Google Play, Apple AppStore).
  2. Identification of the store in which you intend to shop.
  3. User login using a bank identity.
  4. You scan the QR code and enter the store.
  5. You take the basket, choose the goods.
  6. You go to the self-service cash register, mark the goods, pay with a contactless card / phone.
  7. To leave the store, you will scan the QR code from the application again.
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The instructions are ubiquitous. Outside the store, inside the flyer, in animated form on the screen. If something goes wrong, you have nowhere to call.

Why bank identity

A payment card can be used to identify the user, there are known cases from the world where documents are scanned, but bank identity has a major advantage. The salesman knows who wants to enter his store. He knows the age of the customer, so he does not have to limit the assortment and can also sell alcohol. In other words, only people aged 18 and over can enter the store. Only the service section disappears from the automatic mode (for hygienic reasons, it is unacceptable for the customer to cut a piece of salami himself).

Another trump card is a kind of personal responsibility. The person entering the store knows that the company knows him, moreover, his every step is monitored by a camera system with live service. An attempted theft doesn’t really make sense – the culprit is known in advance, the evidence is filmed. Coop says with a bit of exaggeration that it’s easier to steal from a convenience store.

Bank identity means a limited customer base for Coop. Not everyone can set up and use this technology. However, the advantages listed above prevail. In fact, a slow start-up also suits – today five banks know the banking identity, all the others should join by the end of the year.

And the saleswomen will have nothing to eat!

Takové Even such questions at today’s press conference fell. Coop emphasizes that it does not intend to replace human power with the system. On the contrary, staff are scarce and in practice this often means shorter working hours in small shops.

Coop does not say how much the system costs for one store. The stores in Strakonice and Krumlov underwent a comprehensive reconstruction in 1.5, resp. 2 million crowns, but these amounts also include new lighting, new cooling boxes and other infrastructure equipment.

Short comment

The first automatic 24/7 store in the Czech Republic is open. On a theoretical level, it looks promising, we will see how Coop works in practice.

Coop didn’t invent wild technologies like Amazon, automatic item recognition, user identification … He went the easier way. In fact, it is just a matter of identification and admission to the store, then the purchase takes place as you know it from other stores with a self-service store. The bank identity and camera system ensure security. That’s all. This could work!

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