REWE's unstaffed mini-marts bring daily groceries to rural Germany

To bring groceries to rural villages lacking supermarkets, German retail giant REWE is launching a new concept: nahkauf BOX. Operating under REWE's nahkauf brand of neighborhood stores, nahkauf BOX is an unmanned, standalone convenience store that's open 24/7.

Customers gain access to the shop by tapping their debit or credit card, and five people at a time are allowed inside. nahkauf BOX doesn't sell alcoholic beverages, but a wide range of other food and non-food items are on offer. When they're done shopping, customers scan their purchases at a self-checkout and pay by card.

The concept's first shop — Josef's nahkauf BOX — just opened and is managed by Josef Sier and Thomas Scheuring, who also run regular-sized nahkauf stores in neighboring towns. Their BOX satellite is located in Pettstadt, a rural municipality that counts 2,000 residents and 0 supermarkets.

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Last month, we wrote about Boxy's unmanned mini-marts in shipping containers, which are popping up across France.

REWE's nahkauf BOX is around twice as large as a Boxy and stocks a wider range of products — 39 m2 vs. 15 m2 and 750 vs. 250 products. At nahkauf BOX, customers need to scan items and check out. Boxy's approach, on the other hand, is high-tech and fully automated; customers grab what they need and walk out.

And while Boxy is a startup, REWE was founded in 1927 and is Germany's second-largest food retailer. But both are trying to solve the same problem: how to bring groceries to areas that don't generate enough revenue to warrant a regular, fully-staffed supermarket. According to REWE, around 8,000 German municipalities are underserved by retailers, forcing residents to travel significant distances for their daily groceries. The same goes for rural and urban communities around the world. Time to start serving them with a BOX or Boxy?

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