Self-service Stores are Booming Everywhere

無人零售商店遍地開花

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In September this year, two self-service stores landed in Hong Kong for the first time, including Alipayhk's first self-service pop-up store in Olympian City, covering an area of 4,000 square feet. The store employed electronic payment technology using radio-frequency identification. Customers pay for their chosen products via smartphones. Mainly set up by small- and medium-sized start-ups, self-service retail stores have blossomed in the mainland in recent years. Shenzhen has also opened its first selfservice store in November last year, located in Yunli Smart Park in Bantian. Shoppers are required to register as members on social platforms before they can gain access to the store via face scanning. Having selected their desired goods, shoppers can then complete payment and leave the store within half a minute. Such stores have gained attention in Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and the related retail concept has become a general trend. It is expected that the market will gradually apply big data to enhance the development of self-service stores in the cities. This can be done by combining the sales model of online goods or services with the offline shared platform system in self-service stores, to complete the whole purchasing process. It is worth mentioning that there are many challenges in operating small- and mediumsized shops. Although such stores can replace some simple services, including check-out and security, procedures such as product replenishment and store cleaning have not been done yet. If expenses such as maintenance, equipment repair and labour costs are deducted, running this type of store basically cannot be considered profitable. In addition to rent, shop owners have to pay for service fees such as artificial intelligence and big data in the long run, creating less benefits than the traditional retail industry. Additionally, the novelty of self-service purchases could subside. In order to bring continued originality to consumers, owners would have to add some element of experiential consumption to their stores, and further differentiate their services from online shopping and convenience stores. After rapid growth, operators of such self-service stores should be more cautious in site selection in order to avoid competing with existing similar stores or convenience stores as this could add extra business pressure.

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