Corner store giant 7-Eleven appears to be preparing for a future that is arguably more convenient, but involves a lot fewer employees.
The Japanese-owned, U.S.-headquartered company, which operates, franchises and licenses more than 66,000 stores in 17 countries, is embarking on some curious high-tech experiments.
Customers enter Taiwan’s first unstaffed store in Taipei, which sells more than 1,000 products. Customers must apply on the spot for an iCASH card and facial recognition, which will allow them to enter and leave the store and make purchases. Sensors in the store keep track of inventory. (David Chang/EPA-EFE)South Korean consumers are about to get subway-shaped “Express” stores that simply feature a row of linked-together vending machines. Each will carry a different category of products — packaged snack foods, drinks, meals, other processed junk, and non-food household items — offering around 200 items in total. Tobacco products and alcohol won’t be among them.
Seoul’s Hankyoreh newspaper reports that the machines will accept only debit or credit cards — no cash. And there are plans for a small station with hot water and a microwave so hungry customers can make ramen noodles or heat up a pizza pocket.
The stores will be unstaffed.
A similar vending-machine-only outlet is already up and running in Taipei, Taiwan.
A customer waits to pass a facial recognition check to enter the unstaffed store in Taipei. (David Chang/EPA-EFE)Shoppers in New York City, meanwhile, are getting a 7-Eleven app.
The shouty, all-cap 7NOW allows customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn to order anything from snack foods to Slurpees to beer and have it delivered to their door, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, albeit for a $6 to $8 fee. The company is busy promoting the service by driving its delivery trucks around New York and handing out free stuff.
In Australia, the company is going in a slightly different direction, having acquired a controlling interest in Tipple, a start-up that promises to deliver all types of booze to your door within 30 minutes. For now, the two firms will operate separately, but executives expect there will be “interesting opportunities” to link their customer bases.
Joseph DePinto, 7-Eleven’s CEO, has said he’s positioning the company to compete with fast-food chains and drug stores for millennial who like to “one-stop shop.”