The retail landscape is changing, and the latest move from 7-Eleven shows just how much. 7-Eleven is launching its very first Fully Automated Stores in South Korea, called 7-Eleven Express. These stores will be a test. Depending on how they do, the convenience store chain will decide how to move forward.
Two of these machine-style convenience stores are by the 7-Eleven headquarters in downtown Seoul. There is another one at the Lotte Rent-a-Car headquarters in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province, and one more at Lotte E&M in Incheon. Each of these fully automated stores is 10 meters long and has five different vending machines for a total of 200 products. All the products are divided into five different categories: non-food products, processed foods, prepared meals, snacks, and drinks. 7-Eleven carefully chose these categories based on consumer demand.
To use the stores, consumers input the number of the product they want right on the machine or via a central kiosk. They then pay using a credit card or prepaid transit card; the store does not accept cash. The central part of each store also features hot water dispensers and microwave ovens.
The idea is that these convenience stores in the style of vending machines will become commercialized. Assuming the four test stores go well, 7-Eleven will accept applications for franchises from those who currently own a franchise location, so these business owners can open a second store. 7-Eleven told reporters that the idea is to maximize profit for the existing franchise owners.
7-Eleven in South Korea has additionally worked on testing a “c-store” of the future that uses hand-payment at Lotte World Tower. In Taiwan, the convenience store chain opened a second X-Store, which is unstaffed, following the reasonable success of the first.
What It Means
As the fully automated stores are still in the testing stage and only available in small numbers, retailers likely still have some time before they need to think about dramatic changes to the landscape. Even so, the trend toward automation and convenience for customers is clear, something that all store owners need to keep in mind.
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