In response to new customer practices, supermarkets use technology and extend their opening hours, especially on Sundays. Bet on the future or strategic mistake?
The hypermarket without cashiers and without staff has been tested by the Casino group in Angers, Sunday, August 25. The test, a first in France for a store of such a large surface (more than 5,000 m2), ended in confusion. Faced with the controversy, the government has promised to look into the matter, to check if this Sunday opening is legal and if it does not raise competition concerns.
Some customers in the aisles filling their shopping cart for the week, but not the shadow of an employee in the shelves and no one in the box either to scan the articles and present the bill. In this impersonal atmosphere, only a few security guards monitor. At the automatic cash desks, facilitators accompany customers for whom the reading of the barcode of a tissue pack looks like a dive into the digital universe of "Matrix". Should we expect to see this model develop?
Technology to replace the human
Some retail groups, which are facing financial difficulties, are trying to reinvent themselves and stick as closely as possible to new customer practices. The trend towards automation continues, boosted by online orders. Stores are also increasing their hours of operation. "The real challenge for retailers is Sunday," says Benoît Merlaud, deputy editor of the specialized magazine Linéaires. Sunday morning is important, Sunday afternoon could become one. "
"Customers ask for more services, so human hours in front of customers. Some stores are trying to save money on the cash line, "adds Olivier Mével, senior lecturer in management sciences at the University of Brittany West. "As there are social and economic constraints, distributors then use technology," says Olivier Dauvers, a specialist in mass distribution, whose news he dissects on his blog Le Web Grande Conso. It's like the bankers: when they decided to stop distributing cash at the counter, they made vending machines ".
For the moment, no French brand has opted for the Amazon model, which has developed in the United States mini-markets where cameras follow customers and calculate the amount of their shopping with volumetric sensors. The invoice is then directly deducted from their Amazon account. Carrefour was inspired by it, with the opening in June, Massy, a small store of the same type, but only accessible to employees of the company. For its part, Monoprix innovated by launching the encashment on smartphone.
The paradox of the French
But the profusion of technology does not suit everyone. Many customers remain attached to the traditional checkout, the shopping cart filled, to discuss with the cashier. The social bond continues, particularly for pensioners who represent a growing population, less in a hurry than assets. Olivier Dauvers and Benoît Merlaud agree that Brittany is, for the moment, "away from this model of development" and "does not represent short-term prospects" for hypermarkets without cashiers. Automation is more in line with urban practices, where convenience stores should quickly switch to digital.
The French, even if they say they prefer now short circuits and healthy products, do not shun hypermarkets. "All the studies say that we are ready to pay more for better eating, and in the end, the brand that works best is the cheapest," says Olivier Dauvers, about Lidl. Large retailers do not let go of the song, betting on Sunday which, according to the specialized website LSA, represents the second or third best day of the week at Monoprix.