Sunday, November 14, 2021

small town grocery stores try innovating


Main Street Market is not Amazon Go by any stretch. But it follows the same principles of offering convenient access and self-service.

The lower-tech approach is also much less costly to operate. Instead of computer-vision cameras, the store lets shoppers scan items and pay with their phones, or use a self-checkout terminal. Main Street Market offers a selection of mostly conventional goods, including soda, frozen pizza, cold cuts, snacks and sports drinks.  

One obvious potential problem is theft. The store has security cameras in place to monitor the aisles, but owner Alex Ostenson said the business mostly relies on the honor system to ensure customers pay for all the items they select. He said he has the ability to disable an account from his phone at any time.

“If people buy a year membership for $75, would they really risk losing it by stealing?” he told the Enterprise. “We know who is coming and going as each person has a unique access code.”

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 I was just in North Dakota and listened to public radio discuss another new concept in the northeast part of the state.  It would not be a store per se but a storage locker for individual orders that are brought in all at once.  Each order would be put in a storage locker for the purchaser to pick up at their convenience.  The only town name I remember is Hoople, but I think it was 3 towns in that area planning to try this.

It's impossible at some population point for a town to have a profitable grocery store, so these innovative ideas will be worth watching to help out our rural areas.


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