Startup Innovation: The Store With No Employees

A Swedish IT specialist just opened the world’s first “unmanned retail store” that now operates 24-7 with practically no employees around to handle security and cashier. Conceivably, the idea was inspired by a need to cut cost associated with hiring staff.

According to the owner, Robert Ilijason, however, it took root to maximize convenience of supply shortage after hours. How is it exactly more convenient? In many ways, but for starters – there’s no line to get to the cashier, nor is there a cashier to dig out the wallet and pay for anything. For a change without a dime in the pocket, you could storm in there during peak hours, grab what you need and head straight to the exit, no questions ask. How could that possibly be possible? One word, “Apps”. One App on the cell phone with scanning capabilities grants access at the entrance, scans the items inside the store and  automatically charges the account on file, records the purchased items and lets you out of the store just like that. Customers are billed for their takeaways with a monthly invoice mailed to their registered address.

Startup Cost: Although the concept can potentially save loads of money from labor cost, the added facility requirements for a small startup retail shop is not cheap. If anything at all, it’s going to be above average compared to the typical mom and pop’s corner shop. From installing the initial security systems and monthly recurring services with security enforcement, to scanning capabilities at the entrance/exit, from itemized barcodes and, let’s not forget, the cost associated with building the App which is not at all cheap (even in the US) should all weigh in heavy on the owner’s nonrecurring startup budget, or in other words, the one-time upfront expenses for getting the empire up and going. On the other hand, the benefits from savings on fixed costs in the long run, namely labor, should far outweigh the above average startup expenses. How much can a typical unmanned store save per year? Going with Thailand’s average wage for a classic cashier clerk, say 9,000 Baht a month, given at least two shifts per day, the owner could see a profit spike of roughly 216,000 Baht a year – a make or break kind of margin for a corner store. In the US, the margin is probably tripled given the minimum hourly wage requirement, with savings tipping over the million baht mark. That’s also a claim to fame kind of margin for the owner even in the US.

Innovation: Adapting available tools to satisfy a new requirement is combinative innovation stemming from a practical hands-on perspective at its best. It’s as simple as grabbing a hammer and a bag of nails to build a new plywood shelf to fit your new bathroom. Connecting the dots, possibly, in the close future we could see autonomous vehicles transporting to warehouses operated by robots and retail shops operated by, well, the mom and pop’s corner shop owner still has to be there to stock the shelves but everything else from selling to cashier and accounting to inventorying could be handled with minimal staff, either through an actual physical store or an Online Marketplace like Amazon.com.

IoT: Could this possibly be the early stage of IoT in the making? Not too many would bet against it. Apples to apples, if security can be enhanced in such a way for a groceries store, who’s to say it can’t be applied the same way to more expensive commodities and venues as well? Before you know it, a centralized overarching braining is operating the entire market; logistics, warehousing and wholesale-retail, including the digitized financial system as well. A scalable application hard to stop indeed.

Compiled by BLOG.SCGLogistics
Reference and picture by futurism.com, appmakr.com, pixabay.com (account : tariq786)

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