Woolworths opens cashless mini Metro aimed at busy city workers

Supermarket giant Woolworths is trialling a miniature, cashless version of its already compact Metro stores, to cater to Sydney’s busy professionals.

The first MetroGo store opens on Monday, November 4 at 407 Elizabeth Street, near Sydney’s Central Station. Standing at just 50 square metres, the micro store is designed to be “the easiest place” to pick up healthy meal solutions on the go.

Justin Nolan general manager of Woolworths Metro said the MetroGo store is aimed at making shopping “as seamless as possible” for inner-city workers, with digital payments a key focus to make the shopping experience much swifter.

“MetroGo will offer a small range with a focus on healthier breakfast, lunch and snacking options, and customers can pay with our Scan&Go mobile app, eftpos or credit card payments,” Nolan said.

Woolworths’ ‘Scan and Go’ technology has already been rolled out across six other busy Sydney stores, allowing shoppers to select products, scan the barcode with a smartphone, and ‘tap-off’ to complete the transaction.

Nolan said that cash still remains an important payment option for customers and for that reason will still be offered in all other Woolworths supermarkets and Metro stores.

Retail expert, professor Gary Mortimer told Inside FMCG that no cash means fewer staff and that the new concept is likely to pose a real threat to 7-Eleven and the mini IGAs that dominate this sector.

“This new MetroGo model is very much about responding to the busy, inner-city convenience shopper, who wants to pop in and grab a couple of things for lunch, or a fresh meal for diner on the way home,” Mortimer said.

“I could see this model taking off. There are great opportunities in railway stations, bus terminals and other high traffic commuter hubs. Restricting hours of trade, from 6am to 6pm, you reduce your wage costs, avoid penalty rates, while capturing morning and evening foot traffic.”

Both Coles and Woolworths are actively moving towards smaller format stores. Last year, Coles announced plans to open as many as 140 smaller format stores; but MetroGo is an altogether different format. Mortimer said it is the first example of a ‘micro retailer’.

Covering about 40 times less ground than an average supermarket, at just over 50sqms, it will range a little over 640 products. With fewer staff and lower rent, he said the miniature store is a “clever move”.

“Woolworths innovative MetroGo store signals the future of grocery shopping in Australia. A focus on micro-formats, fresh ‘ready-to-go’ meal solutions, frictionless transactions and convenience,” Mortimer said.

He noted that the new location, under Woolworths’ digital and e-commerce division, Woolies X, is no coincidence, and will allow teams to test and trail new innovations.

Amazon’s cashless bricks-and-mortar offering, AmazonGo, received some criticism in the US for excluding certain members of the public, such as the homeless community. In May this year, Amazon’s senior vice president of physical stores Steve Kessel told employees that “additional payment mechanisms” would be implemented in order to address “discrimination and elitism” at its cashierless stores.

Woolworths plans to monitor feedback from customers on the new offering before taking next steps.

Last updated November 4 @ 10.21am.

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