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One of the smart and unstaffed Lifvs stores in Sweden, Source: Lifvs Facebook page

Unmanned grocery stores take over Sweden’s countryside

Unmanned grocery stores take over Sweden’s countryside

You won't see any cashiers or staff in these shops

The demographic decline in rural Europe is creating its own kind of impact that affect the lives of people living there. Population density is directly correlated to the availability of services. Many smaller grocery stores in rural Sweden have closed doors for good leaving the remaining residents in the midst of what could be described as ‘food desserts’.

Lifvs, a Stockholm-based start-up, however, has decided to turn this trend around using the benefits of digitization and smart tech. It has already placed more than 20 unstaffed grocery stores in different rural spots in Sweden.

All willing customers need to do is sign up to an app that provides them with a key to the store. They can then scan the barcodes of the products they want to pick up with their phones. The money will be directly deducted from their accounts.

A mom-and-pop shop for the digital age

The other factor which blew some powerful winds in the sails of the project was the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting need for social distancing. The unmanned shops require no social contact, which means that no personnel would need to be exposed to risks the way cashiers and other personnel are in the traditional supermarkets.

True, the Lifvs stores are no supermarkets, they are more of a convenience store where one pops in to replenish the fridge with the bare necessities or grab a snack or two. Yet, they do provide a valuable and much-needed service by bringing that kind of convenience back to the countryside, where people often have to drive large distances and plan in advance their grocery shopping.

Their small size makes them convenient in a different way, too. They are pre-fabricated at a different spot and are then easy to transport on a cargo truck and placed at a convenient spot, ready to go once they are connected to the grid.

There are company agents who travel to replenish and clean the stores three times a week and reportedly see if there are any missing products. Artificial intelligence comes in help as it keeps a tab on the inventory and warns of depleting stocks.

The stores can be accessed 24 hours a day and naturally, there are cameras that would record any cases of shoplifting or break-ins, however, inter-communal trust and respect for the law are high in the Scandinavian country. It is also one of the most cashless societies, so the implementation of that kind of shopping only seems natural.

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