Mexican business FEMSA, which owns the OXXO convenience store chain, are trialling autonomous convenience stores in Mexico. The small-sized units are designed to serve customers in hospitals, apartment complexes and offices. FEMSA has launched two stores in the format, which it has named OXXO Smart.
Key characteristics of OXXO Smart
The stores are fully autonomous (requiring no staff). Customers select their products and can pay simply and securely using self-checkouts. It is a low investment format that OXXO says is adaptable, meaning it can alter the layout and assortment of each unit based on its location.
Despite a relatively low number of products, between 350 and 400 SKUs, the units offer a wide assortment. OXXO uses innovative technology to manage the inventory remotely and automates replenishment using telemetry.
Fresh coffee is a key footfall driver in OXXO’s core estate, and it has implemented specialised coffee equipment in the units to offer customers a selection of hot coffees to go.
Trialling units in Monterrey
OXXO is initially testing the format in Monterrey, where FEMSA is headquartered. The second store opened in the city of Santa Catarina, in west Monterrey, and is located inside a gated community, serving roughly 1,000 local residents.
OXXO is by far the largest convenience retailer in Latin America, with almost 20,000 stores across Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Brazil. Its average store size is 100 sq. m and it has become an expert in range optimisation.
OXXO Coverage in Latin America
In its domestic market of Mexico, FEMSA opened 1,330 stores in 2019 and 1,420 in 2018, showing the pace at which, it can expand. Since the start of the pandemic customers have preferred to shop in stores closer to home. The OXXO Smart proposition enables the business to open stores in closer proximity to the customer, making them more desirable and highly convenient.
Autonomous stores are a growing trend we are seeing globally. In 2020 we interviewed Brazilian retailer Hirota, which is expanding the format in Brazil. Since launching its autonomous store in H1 2020, it already operates between 10 and 15 stores. For OXXO, this concept is at the early evaluation stage and FEMSA is analysing its viability and performance. If its initial stores are successful, it will be interesting to see what FEMSA does next as we have yet to see the model rolled out at scale outside of China, where many of the earliest examples have been seen.
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