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Lekkerland opens autonomous store Rewe Ready with Latebird

The Rewe Group subsidiary Lekkerland, in cooperation with the energy supplier ENBW, opened the first fully automated unmanned container store named Rewe Ready end of September. The autonomous grocery store of Lekkerland is located at the EnBW fast-charging park for electric cars in Bispingen, Lower Saxony. It allows customers to autonomously select and pay for convenience items via terminal around the clock, seven days a week. The store’s technology originates from the Paderborn-based company Latebird.

Without being registered, customers can use a touch display to select goods from a convenience range in a covered entrance area that is accessible through automatic sliding doors. The terminal is built by Diebold Nixdorf. The items there are currently grouped for the customer into seven product categories: Food, beverages, sweets and savoury, fresh and chilled, as well as ice cream and frozen products. Drugstore articles and tobacco items can also be ordered. Each product is presented with a picture, description, item number and price. The assortment currently includes 230 items, but can be expanded up to 500 articles, according to a press release from Rewe Markt GmbH.

Payment is cashless. Customers can choose whether they want to pay by EC card, credit card (MasterCard or Visa), Apple Pay, GPay or VPay. According to the technology provider, pre-ordering via application would also be possible, so that customers could pick up products directly at the container store after they have registered a QR code. Currently, customers in Bispingen can only select and purchase their items on site. It is still unclear whether goods can also be pre-ordered via app at the Rewe Ready Store in the future. When asked by Retail Optimiser, Lekkerland only confirmed that this is currently not offered.

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Automatic issue of products

Not accessible to the customers, the part of the container contains the modular system cabinets equipped with the goods. The selected items are placed on a conveyor belt from the various units via sliding and lift technology. They are then transported along further transport belts to the product issue point, which is located next to the terminal within the customer area. The shopper can take out his purchase there.

Different temperature zones, from -20° Celsius to +40° Celsius, can be realised for each unit. The store’s software is linked to the retailer’s merchandise management system. In addition to the quantity of individual items, the best-before date (BBD) is also registered. For example, the retailer can use a special retailer card to have all products with a best-before date of less than two days issued at once. This can be done without manually checking and sorting out every container, says Markus Belte, founder and CEO at Latebird, in a video report produced by Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR).

The video shows an example of how an unmanned Latebird store works. (Source: Latebird)

The container has the size of 36 square metres, weighs about 16 tonnes and can be transported by truck and moved to another location. It needs network access, electricity, and a place to be set up. The concept should “not replace retail and shopping experience in any way”, says Markus Belte. Rather, the automated supermarket is intended to complement existing stores, close gaps in supply and create additional shopping opportunities.

For the development of this concept, Lekkerland and Latebird had received one of the prestigious Reta Awards awarded by EHI Retail Institute in March this year, as the Retail Optimiser reported.  Bispingen is the first location the retail company operates with this technology provider. Concerning the expansion of the concept to other locations, the Rewe subsidiary Lekkerland is in talks, but cannot give any information now, according to an enquiry from the Retail Optimiser.

Rewe tests various autonomous store concepts with Lekkerland

Rewe is testing further mini formats with Lekkerland, one of it is the 39 square metre Nahkauf box which was opened in April this year, the Retail Optimiser reported. According to a spokesperson, this store concept using self-checkout-technology from 4POS is also “a pilot for rural areas and places that are far away from the city centres”. In contrast to Rewe Ready, the store is accessible to customers and shopping is possible autonomously around the clock using self-scanning. The door can be opened with a credit or giro card.

A similar project to Rewe Ready, as reported by the Retail Optimiser, was recently opened by the start-up Friedas24 with technology from VPS Roberta. The store is also an unmanned, but somewhat smaller container store. In contrast to Latebird, this one works with robot technology. This comes from Japanese manufacturer Yaskawa. Both stores can be used freestanding or integrated into existing store concepts.

Also in September, Edeka Südwest in Offenburg opened a fully automated 24/7 solution with technology from Knapp, as reported. The automated store is attached to the Edeka Südwest’s Italophile gourmet food concept Sapori d’Italia.

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Regina Wagner

Regina Wagner has several years of professional experience in retail and in management consultancies. After her apprenticeship in retail trade at grocery company Tegut, she completed a dual degree in business administration with a specialisation in retailing parallel to her work in management teams at various stores of the company. After her time at Tegut, she joined Deloitte Consulting as a management consultant delivering national and international projects. Her consulting focus was on process optimisation, project management and purchasing. Following her time at Deloitte, Regina Wagner worked in market research and project management at Edeka Nordbayern-Sachsen-Thüringen. Through her qualification as retail merchandiser, Regina Wagner has in-depth knowledge of grocery retailing.

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