Rural communities' future: supermarkets without employees

Scan, validate on the computer, and pay by card or customer card. Or in cash that you drop in a money box to the penny. Cameras monitor the entire supermarket area.

Rural communities' future: supermarkets without employees
Rural Germany's hope or nightmare: a supermarket without checkout clerks? Image by Alexa from Pixabay

"Tante M" in Parkstein opens automatically every day from 5:00 to 23:00. The shop, which covers about 90 square meters, has 1200 shelves stocked with everyday essentials, as well as pastries and sausages from a local or regional butcher.

You do the checking yourself: scan, validate on the computer, and then pay by card or customer card. Or in cash, which you have to drop in a money box of some kind, down to the penny. Several cameras monitor the entire area. The operators stress that the number of thefts is no higher than in supermarkets, which have employees.

Customers praise supermarkets' range

The shop is a kind of vending machine with an entrance; it operates almost entirely without high staff costs and is therefore easier to manage economically, especially in rural areas where there are not many customers. The two employees, Christine Hundhammer and Sabine Piller are only there occasionally when goods need to be placed or checked. or when the post office, which is integrated into one corner, is open.

The goods are slightly more expensive than in the big supermarkets. But customers praise the fact that they will find everything they need for their daily needs. Some people come spontaneously because they have changed the menu. Others come because they forgot something while shopping in neighboring Weiden. or because it's quieter and more understandable.

The mayor wants to ensure basic supplies

The "Tante M" concept comes from Christian Mares of Baden-Württemberg, where there are already more than 30 such stores. The first project of its kind in Bavaria has been successfully operating in Parkstein for a year. Mayor Reinhard Sollfrank (Free Voters) wanted to provide basic services for his community of 2,300 inhabitants.

There are two bakeries and butchers, but that is not enough, he says. The town of Weiden and its shopping areas are about ten kilometers away. Especially for the elderly and the young, shopping in Weiden is not possible because public transport is poorly developed.

More "Tante M" stores to open

The municipality is the operator, and the operator is franchise entrepreneur Andreas Gerulliss, who opened the second "Tante M" in Bavaria a few weeks ago in Pechbrunn, in the district of Thirchenreuth. Another one will open in Thiersheim, Upper Franconia, in February.

"Interested parties are waiting in line," says Gerullis. He names several other municipalities in the Upper Palatinate with whom he is already in concrete talks. The mayor also still has to answer many questions from other Bavarian mayors about how things are going in his municipality.

No alcohol or tobacco is offered

The concept seems to be working; Mr. Parkstein is talking about a win-win situation. The municipality has provided basic supplies, and people like to come and shop. However, tobacco and alcohol are not available. The mayor names the most popular purchases of young people, which include energy drinks, chips, frozen pizzas, and condoms.

Closed on Sundays?

However, a few weeks after the opening a year ago, the mayor and the public were in for a shock. "Auntie M had to close on Sundays." One of the days with the highest turnover of all days The Bavarian law on Sundays and public holidays interferes with the Baden-Württemberg concept.

A political solution has not yet been found, and the state parliament is working on amending the law, Sollfrank said. In the meantime, however, the municipality has granted an exemption to the operator, so it has been possible to shop on Sundays again for a few weeks.

Not "maultaschen", but dumpling dough

There was another aspect of the concept in Baden-Württemberg that could not be transferred to Bavaria: in Baden-Württemberg, traditional "Maultaschen" (dumplings with veal-spinach filling) are part of the daily necessities. Operator Andreas Gerullis has taken them off the shelves in Bavarian shops. Dumpling dough has taken its place.

Source: BR24