Coop Czech expands automatic store concept to rural areas

Coop Czech first trialled staffless stores last year

Czech retail chain Coop has opened one of its automatic stores in Bujanov, a village with a population of only 600.

The stores offer human service during regular hours but can be accessed outside these hours via a phone app and bank identity, with payment taken at the self-service checkout.

It is hoped the introduction of stores like this will help with the problem of small shop closures in the Czech Republic’s rural areas.

NeilsenIQ figures show there have been 7,000 closures of small shops in the country since 2000, particularly in municipalities with populations of 1,000 or less. Pavel Březina, chair of the Association of Czech Traditional Trade (AČTO), warns this trend may be accelerated by recent economic challenges.  

Jan Hoffmann, director of Bujanov’s new store said the performance of the new model will be an important test for the future expansion of Coop Czech’s automatic stores.

“When we were confronted with a challenging decision regarding our business, we drew upon our positive experience with automatic operations in our stores located in Lipno na Vltavou and Český Krumlov,” said Hoffman.

“We decided to implement this model in a different setting, and the support we received from the local government played a crucial role in this endeavour. Thanks to their tireless efforts to sustain local businesses, our enterprise continues to operate successfully in the village.”

Coop Czech opened its first automatic store in March last year in the city of Strakonice, followed by the biggest unstaffed store in the country in Krumlov.

According to Lukáš Němčík, the co-op’s marketing and development director, the retailer is pleased with how its operations have been performing so far.

“Customers have expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to shop at any time, and the automated system has also had a positive impact on sales. We opted for a straightforward and efficient solution, and now the company will monitor how the concept performs in rural areas.”