Monoprix launches autonomous store

Date : 13 October 2020

Jon Wright

Head of Insight - RA EMEA

Casino-owned Monoprix has opened its first unstaffed store, under the Monop’ Box brand. The store is being trialed at the retailer’s headquarters, with Monoprix noting that the technology used by the store also able to be scaled up to its wider estate.

The retailer said the Box will be repositioned from its headquarters to a site accessible by the public as part of a ‘live’ test.

Contactless and cashless store

The 18 sq. m store is contactless and cashless, as with most global examples, but differentiating itself, the store does not require a shopper to download an app to enter or register with it; they simply can use their bank card. At the store’s entrance, a shopper simply presents their bank card, which creates a pre-authorisation payment of €30, which allows them to enter. To limit shopper contact, due to COVID-19, only one person is allowed in the store at any one time. The retailer said the average basket during the trial has been between €6 and €10.

The store does not use cameras to track shoppers’ purchases, as with Amazon Go, with Casino noting the system was ‘complex, expensive and a source of too many errors’. Cameras are present to limit shrink and to enable the retailer to note abandoned purchases or out of stocks. The store does have a laser remote sensing system that tracks shopper movement around it, which removes the need for recording images. The shopper then walks the store, choosing what they want with the final purchases validated at the end of the journey. A receipt is then emailed for the completed purchases.

300 SKUs stocked across three core shopper needs

The Monop’ Box carries 300 SKUs, of which 55% is private label. A third of the range is dedicated to snacking, a third for grocery products and the final third for non-food, with the latter two focused on meeting shoppers' top-up needs. Casino said the average shopper visit lasts about one minute. For similar SKUs, which may only be differentiated by their flavour or fragrance, Casino has chosen to stock them at the same price, rather than add any further complexity to the operations.

The low number of SKUs means that Monop’ Box only requires one delivery per day, which will come from an existing store. Prices charged in the Box will be the same as those of the rest of its estate, excluding promotions and loyalty benefits, as it is presently not attached to the retailer’s wider loyalty programme.

Store fully developed by Casino…

Casino said the Monop’ Box was fully developed by itself, in conjunction with existing partners. The retailer said the Box’s development took a year and a half. From Ingenico for the payment system to Shekel for the weighing scales, which trigger the generation of a purchase. Artificial intelligence has been used to improve the scales.

To help with roll out, Casino stresses the limited needs for the box, which are just a power supply and 4G coverage. Given the existing relationships, comparatively simple use of technology and limited required levels of investment, Casino said it would be quicker for the format to return a profit than equivalent solutions. To support its profitability, Casino has said it will consider licensing the solution to other retailers, which is another benefit of developing it in-house.

…Which should support expansion

Casino said the Box could be rolled out in new situations, such as car parks or in high footfall locations, allow it to add points of sale in places where it was only able to open 100 sq. m stores previously, and to open ’24 / 7’ areas in its largest stores. The retailer has said it is planning to open 10 Monop’ boxes in two years, with a focus on high footfall locations, such as airports, hospitals and business parks.