The Project: Open an innovative grocery store replete with portable digital shopping devices and automatic checkout.
The Payoff: More efficiency, greater convenience, and better inventory management -- if the technology can be perfected.
On a busy friday at an Extra supermarket in Rheinberg, Germany, green, red, and yellow lights flash on an office-computer display. Managers can see when it's time to open another checkout line or restock the razors.
This is the seven-month-old Future Store, where Düsseldorf-based Metro -- Extra's parent -- is testing gizmos to smarten up the retail biz. One is a touch-screen computer that clips to a shopping cart. Can't find Beck's beer? Type in the first few letters of the item -- a store map appears and marks the spot. In the produce aisle, a scale equipped with a tiny camera recognizes bananas or cucumbers by size and shape and prints the correct price on a label.
Much of the technology is still too pricey for most grocery stores. But it's a look at where retail is headed. For now, it's helping Extra woo customers -- up 46% since April.
By Jack Ewing