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Cashierless convenience stores stumbling in China

The excitement over unmanned convenience stores in China has fallen short after two years, according to a Nikkei Asian Review report.

Such stores allow customers to pay using smartphones. Armed with artificial intelligence, they also gathered data on consumer preferences to optimize inventories and logistics.

By the end of 2017, around 200 such stores had sprouted up, and 4.3 billion yuan ($620 million) was invested in 2017 alone, according to itjuzi.com, a research firm.

Stores began closing at the start of 2018 and funding declined, the report noted.

This past December, e-commerce giant JD.com decided to suspend its unmanned shops equipped with smart shelf technology. In July 2018, the company announced it would open 5,000 of the shops in office buildings, but canceled the plan six months later.

Buy-Fresh Go an automated store heralded as a model of automated retail, closed in May in Shenzhen’s electronics district after only about a year.

Much of the problem was attributed to the difficulty of selling fresh food in unmanned stores, according to the report. In addition, many of the stores did not have the expertise to operate the stores.
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