To find the “store of the future,” you’ll have to travel to Rheinberg, Germany. That’s where Metro Group, the world’s fifth largest retailer, has created a convenience store to serve as a real-world test bed for a variety of advanced retailing technologies.
The Extra Future Store, as the outlet is formally known, showcases systems intended to benefit both shoppers and retailers. Very little inside the store isn’t touched by some type of technology. Many of the store’s cases, shipping pallets, shopping carts and individual products carry radio frequency identification (RFID) devices that allow everything from sales tracking to automatic inventory replenishment to congestion prevention at the checkout line. Consumers can also take advantage of an intelligent scale that automatically identifies and weighs fruits and vegetables as well as a self-checkout terminal.
Other featured technologies include electronic advertising displays, employee-carried wirelessly networked PDAs, shopping-cart-mounted touch screens that direct customers to specific products, multimedia information kiosks and instantly updatable electronic shelf labels. The store is part of the Metro Group Future Store Initiative, which includes partners such as IBM, Intel, Philips Semiconductors, SAP, and more than 30 other technology and consumer goods companies.
The store’s goal is to test new retailing technologies and to set standards that can be implemented on an international scale, says Albrecht von Truchsess, a Metro Group spokesman. “We want to practice how a variety of technological systems can work together in a very complex way.” He notes that new technologies will be added to the store whenever the company deems they are ready for public testing.
Metro doesn’t have any immediate plans to open additional Future Stores. “It’s a test lab,” notes von Truchsess. “You normally don’t erect several test labs.” But that doesn’t mean that technologies tested in the Future Store won’t eventually find their way into the retail mainstream. “We will get results from this store, and we will decide which solutions are fit to be brought into other stores,” he says.