Czechia to embrace the automation age in 2024 with 50 new self-service stores

Introduced last year, shops without any human attendants have proved popular for consumers and retail companies. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 19.09.2023 16:26:00 (updated on 19.09.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech cooperative network COOP announced ambitious plans to open a minimum of 50 new automatic stores in the Czech Republic by the end of 2024, offering customers the convenience of shopping without the presence of an attendant, even during non-standard hours. 

A focus on convenience

Currently, COOP operates 10 automatic stores and collaborates as a partner in additional locations, Lukáš Němčík, COOP's director of development and marketing, said during a press conference held in Prague. There are currently approximately 20 such fully self-service stores in the Czech Republic. 

Němčík emphasized the suitability of the automatic sales system for stores in villages and smaller towns, noting that unattended operation accounts for about 10 percent of a store's sales. Surprisingly, thefts have not posed a significant problem, with customers gaining entry to the stores using their bank identity, a factor that discourages potential wrongdoers.

COOP's expansion into new automatic stores has been facilitated by strategic partnerships with ČSOB and Mastercard, both contributing CZK 10 million to support this initiative.

Proving popular

This year has seen strong growth for COOP compared to 2022, with 14 new stores added by Sept. 1, and an additional eight expected to open by the end of the year. Over 40,000 customers have already made purchases in these automated stores, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Our research indicates that customers appreciate the freedom to shop at any time and access everyday goods, especially in more remote areas where such convenience was previously unavailable or stores had closed before people returned from work," Němčík noted.

For those unfamiliar with using bank identities, some automatic stores also offer alternative entry methods, such as cards or chips. While several dozen automatic stores exist in Germany and Poland, this concept has yet to gain traction in Austria and Slovakia.

Tomáš Dubský, Vice-Chairman of the Association of Local Governments, emphasized the importance of basic services in rural areas, which make up over 70 percent of the Czech Republic's territory but house less than a third of the population.

The first automatic grocery store in the Czech Republic, operated by COOP, opened in Strakonice in March. Other companies, such as Super Zoo, have also ventured into this domain, optimizing costs with their automated supply stores, the first of which opened in Týn nad Vltavou in late 2022.

The next Super Zoo automatic store is scheduled to open in Pardubice at the beginning of October, where security measures ensure that live animals are kept out of sight outside normal operating hours when staff are not present. Additionally, Fééér self-service shop in Bítovany, Pardubice, has commenced operations with the support of the governor's office, further expanding the reach of automated stores across the Czech Republic.

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