In March, French chain Auchan will open its first 'Minute' store in Europe, in the French municipality of Villeneuve d'Ascq (close to the Belgian border). These compact "container stores" have no registers or staff: shopping is entirely done through smartphone.
Entirely by smartphone
After a number of failed tests, Auchan Minute started out in China in 2017: these mini-supermarkets are the size of a container and they are open 24/7, which is made possible by the fact that no one works at these neighbourhood stores. From the moment you step inside to the moment you check out, everything happens by smartphone. In China, customers are identified through their account before they can enter. Once inside, shoppers choose their products and check out by scanning the bar codes at a self-scan post. Payment is done through the smartphone app as well.
It is not quite clear how much the formula will be adjusted for the French market, but in China the unmanned store has become quite commonplace: Auchan already has more than 750 Minute outlets in major cities. The limited range of 500 SKUs is optimised per location and stock levels are automatically updated so that supplies can be refilled when necessary from the nearest hypermarket.
At first only for employees
To test the European version of the concept, Europe's first Minute outlet will only be accessible to Auchan employees at first. Upon identification through their smartphone, the shoppers can then enter the small store of barely 18 sqm. Auchan is already talking about further expansion across all of France, if the test turns out to be successful.
French rival Carrefour is also about to open a new 24/7 store this spring in the heart of Brussels: the unmanned neighbourhood supermarket will be 60 sqm in size and feature a range of 400 available products. Auchan believes this type of supermarket is an efficient way to gauge local customer expectations (within 5 km).