The fully-automated convenience store
January 14, 2006 The world’s first convenience store opened in 1927 serving customers 16 hours a day (from 7am to 11pm), eventually evolving into the 7-Eleven Corporation and a retailing revolution had begun, though it did not really begin to gather momentum until the automobile became popular and available post WW2. The world’s first 24 hour 7-Eleven opened in 1963 and since then society has become accustomed to demanding and getting instant everything, with the logical imperatives such as 24 hour chemists first, followed by supermarkets and shopping malls. Now robotics and computers can offer an automated shopping experience that lacks little and costs less, we can expect to see many new 24 hour services evolving with the ever-entrepreneurial SingPost recently launching the World’s first 24-Hour Automated Post Office and the recent growth in Europe of 24 hour automated convenience stores. All Seasons Services recently unveiled its first Shop24 automated convenience store unit in the United States, expanding its operations from a successful European base of 160 stores across seven countries. Shop24 offers 24-hour access to as many as 200 items, including anything from milk to a six-pack of soda, batteries, iPod download cards, and health and beauty aids, in a freestanding, self-service, outdoor unit. It’s a new concept and one which can be expected to change convenience retailing on college and business campuses initially, with an inevitable impact on main street as time goes by.
To date, Shop24 has seen its popularity grow outside of the United States with over 60 million consumer transactions recorded in 160 locations in seven countries throughout Europe. Consumers are able to create a "Shopping List" and purchase products either with cash, ATM or credit and debit cards by entering the product code on an interactive screen. A robotic arm collects the product and delivers it to the 'take-out' gate all within 20 seconds. Shop24's product portfolio includes fresh and chilled products as well as other prepackaged grocery and convenience products -- all attractively displayed behind safety glass.
"Convenience retailing is one of the world's fastest growing industries as consumers are seeking ease and convenience in all aspects of their lives," said Mark Bruno, President of All Seasons Services. "Shop24 provides the SUNY at Morrisville college population with a service-driven and exciting 'self retail' solution where you can take a quick walk on this beautiful campus and purchase leading brands, 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week." Machine activity will be monitored in real-time from a remote location utilizing proprietary technology.
SUNY at Morrisville is the only test college in the country for the Shop24 unit and will be surveyed on item preferences. "I'm pleased our school was chosen to be the first in the nation to test Shop24 and I commend All Seasons Services for its innovative approach to serving our population," said Raymond Cross, President of SUNY at Morrisville.
"The feedback from students of our Shop24 has already been extremely positive," said Glenn Gaslin, General Manager of the Morrisville Auxiliary Corporation, a not-for-profit company chartered by the State of New York to provide non-academic services to the campus. "They really like having a wide variety of items that they can access themselves right on campus 24/7."
All Seasons Services, Inc. is one of the nation's largest independent providers of vending and office refreshment services with annual sales reaching $200 million. In December of 2004, Auckland, New Zealand-based VTL Group Ltd., developers of the Shop24 technology, acquired a substantial long- term interest in All Seasons Holdings, Inc. and in so doing entered into a partnership with All Seasons Services, Inc. to bring Shop24 to the United States. All Seasons is a private company which provides its services to more than 10,000 accounts in 16 states. Business markets served include professional offices, health care, education, manufacturing, retail and corrections, as well as the governmental and public sectors.