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November 23, 1993

SMART STORE EUROPE GIVES US A GLIMPSE OF THE SUPERMARKET TECHNOLOGY OF THE FUTURE

By CBR Staff Writer

Supermarket shopping as we know it could soon be memory of the past if the the ideas aired at Smart Store Europe come into being. Opened at the end of October and based in Windsor, Berkshire, it is a $5m permanent research and development centre that demonstrates the latest retailing practices and techniques for the food and packaged goods industries using the most up to date technology on both the supply and demand side. It is intended to become a discussion forum for those involved in the retail business to examine the new forces shaping the European marketplace, including changing consumer values and expectations, market restructuring, alternative sales channels and turbulent economic conditions. Surveys have shown that 64% of the population detest shopping for food, which is incidentally the same percentage that do not relish the prospect of going to the dentist! The exhibits include a kitchen of the future in which the cook has a point and click or touch screen enabling him to call up recipe ideas and have the necessary ingredients delivered through a hole in the wall or a nearby collection point, such as the local garage. Hand scanners will mean the householder can scan staple items and have them automatically delivered each week. Such devices can already be rented in the US for $9 or so a month. John Hollis, director of Smart Store, says the technology to achieve this is available today, and could realistically be in place in the UK within the next five years.

The store of the future may be social

Smart Store Europe thus envisages its role as going beyond merely automating current practices. This opens up huge questions of competition for supermarkets. What will they have to do to their stores in order to continue enticing personal shoppers? And also brings in new opportunities for provision of the technology and distribution of the goods. The store of the future may have more of a social dimension with tables at which you can sip coffee and place orders from a deskstop screen, then swipe through a payment card, graphical interfaces that will show advertising for products from which you can choose or bar coded prices on shelves that can be scanned, even visual colour coding and matching on screen of different fashion ideas to assist selection of those you may wish to try, using software originally designed to train surgeons, or perhaps doctors located within the store. Checkouts may be a thing of the past. Customers could receive a wand scanner on entry and scan their purchases as they shop, having samples of bulky products on the shelves, which are delivered to a pick-up area on departing, when to counter theft, the goods are physically checked with sensor codes. The labour previously used in the checkout service is expected to be transferred into a more value added-arena, such as customer service to ensure continued personal shopping. Marks & Spencer Plc was among the first to visit the store and it has booked future workshops. On the warehousing and distribution side, Symbol Technologies Inc, based in New York, has provided a hands-free system for bar code data transactions. The APS 3395 is strapped to the operator’s arm and the HF 2000 scanner strapped to the back of the hand where it is activated when the worker points his finger at the bar code. The PDF 1000 scanner can read both the company’s PDF417 two dimensional bar code and conventional bar codes. Smart store Europe is the third of its kind from Anderson Consulting. The original Store is based in Chicago, US and in its five year history has had more than 10,000 visitors. The other store, serving the Asia-Pacific region, is located in Sydney, Australia.

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