Broken baby food jar leads to Sweden's first unstaffed grocery store

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Parenthood may be hard but those challenges can also lead to new ideas. Ask Robert Ilijason, for whom a broken baby food jar eventually led to the opening of Sweden’s first around-the-clock unstaffed convenience store.

The store is located in Viken, where Ilijason lives, a village of around 4,200 inhabitants on Sweden’s south east coast.

Late night stores are scarce and the nearest large town is Helsingborg, 20 minutes drive away, a problem for Ilijason when one night he was in urgent need of food for his baby.

The concept behind his unstaffed store is simple. An app, linked to a user’s bank ID, is used to unlock the door and then become a scanner to scan the groceries. An invoice follows at the end of the month.

“So once you’ve opened the door, the app automatically turns into scan mode and you can buy whatever you want to buy,” Ilijason explained.

For security reasons, the door remains open for only eight seconds and cameras are installed in the store. The idea is member-based and a credit check is done on new members.

The stores stocks dairy products, frozen and dried foods but the idea is that demand will eventually decide what is being stocked and Ilijason hopes that in the future he will be able to cooperate with local producers.

For Ilijason, a technician, it all started one night with a broken baby food jar and a hungry, screaming baby.

“It was the last one and I panicked,” he said.

After having to drive to the city for a new one, he decided that Viken needed a store that was always open. And being a technician, he used technology to solve the problem of having expensive personnel working day and night.

“It’s open 24/7 so you’re able to get necessary products that you probably forgot in the store or that you feel like having late at night or early in the morning before the other grocery stores have opened,” said customer Mart Kielland Bjerke.

Ilijason said he already has plans to expand.

“Maybe we’ll scale up to all of Sweden and maybe even outside of Sweden. We’ll see”

Writing by Johan Sennero Editing by Jeremy Gaunt