New digital stores operating 24/7 in two modes – either with daytime staff transitioning to automatic mode after regular business hours or completely automated and remotely monitored – allow shopping at any time, even at night.
“These are full-fledged stores with over a thousand items to choose from. They also enable weekend shopping, and customers are taking advantage of it,” emphasized Lukáš Němčík, the Director of Cooperative Stores Development, at a press conference held at the Parliament. “Rural stores are struggling, and automation can help develop them,” stated Tomáš Dubský, Vice Chairman of the Union of Local Self-Government.
COOP, which has a network of 2,400 stores, plans to open another fifty automated stores by the end of next year.
Card and Bank Identification are Necessary
A payment card, bank identification, and the Contio app need to be used to purchase without a cashier. After the initial login using bank identification, a unique QR code is generated for each store visit, allowing entry. Customers can leave the store after payment verification. Central security ensures safety.
Artificial Intelligence is Becoming More Commonplace Among Retailers
Digital stores with unmanned operations are often established in traditional store buildings. For example, in Tábor, a converted retired shipping container named Regionka 24 has been operating since last August.
In Bítovany, a classic rural store closed for years has been revived with unmanned automation.
In Týn nad Vltavou, Super Zoo operates on this principle. Entry to the store is through a barrier with camera analysis, allowing access only to registered individuals in the Contio app. In Brno, Geoobchod is fully digitized and unmanned. Regular items are displayed in the central area, while more expensive products are in a separate room with remote access controlled by security.
Theft is Not a Problem
COOP’s automated stores are located in Strakonice, Český Krumlov, Lipno nad Vltavou, Skalice nad Svitavou, Beroun, Bujanov, Česká Třebová, Lednice, Ústí nad Orlicí, Třeboň, Čižkrajice, and Koldín. COOP opened its first digitized store in Strakonice on Podskalská Street in March last year, followed by Český Krumlov in September, and others after that. COOP plans to open fifty more automated stores.
“The smallest store in automated mode has an area of 23 m², while the largest one at Lipno measures over five hundred,” added Němčík. He says theft is not a problem because bank identification provides good protection.
Purchasing in Self-Service Mode
- Download the Contio mobile app.
- Register in the app.
- Use the QR code on your mobile phone for store entry.
- Take a shopping basket and start shopping.
- Scan the items at the checkout.
- Confirm the purchase and pay with a payment card or mobile phone.
- Scan the QR code from the app again to exit the store.
The state also supports hybrid stores. The Ministry of Industry and Trade provides grants ranging from CZK 125,000 to one million for opening hybrid stores. Applications can be submitted until the end of 2024.
In addition, through the “Obchůdek 2021+” program, the Ministry has reallocated funds for over 40,000 payment terminals in small stores in towns with up to one thousand inhabitants.
Above-Average Number of Stores per Capita in the Czech Republic
While in 2000, there were nearly nineteen thousand stores up to 400 m² in the Czech Republic, by 2021, this number had decreased to twelve thousand. The decline in rural areas is even more significant than these figures suggest because the statistics include all smaller stores. In contrast, urban areas are seeing an increase.