SINGAPORE - The Cheers outlet at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) looks like its normal store - with shelves and fridges stocked with food and drinks - except there is no cashier or assistant in sight.
The convenience store, fully managed by NYP students, is fitted with at least 10 closed-circuit cameras.
Customers use a QR code found on the free "Shop It Yourself" mobile app to gain entry to the store. The doors lock automatically after entry.
The store also features a unified self-checkout system that accepts various cashless payment modes, eliminating the need for multiple payment terminals.
Customers can pay using Nets, credit card, ez-link, mobile and contactless payment.
The outlet is also the first convenience store to accept Nets payment by QR code, a new form of payment that utilises DBS Paylah, OCBC Pay Anyone and UOB Mighty.
There are also three vending machines dispensing ready-to-eat foods ranging from pastries and pizza to fried rice and hor fun.
At the back end, a system tracks stock levels and automatically places orders when stocks are low.
This unmanned format saves Cheers 180 man hours per week.
At the launch of the store on Friday (July 28), Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said the move by Cheers "raises the bar of what it means to be a convenience store of the future... (and) affirms that local retailers are more than equal to the task of remaining relevant and competitive".
This is especially the case when local retailers are now up against the likes of Amazon Prime Now, launched earlier this week, which uses artificial intelligence technology and offers delivery within two hours, he said.
Mr Seah Kian Peng, chief executive of NTUC FairPrice which runs Cheers, said the store is a step towards offering a "differential and innovative retail concept".
"To stay competitive and relevant, a key approach is to provide value-added services that cater to the needs and convenience of customers," he said. "Besides challenging industry norms, this store also aims to cultivate a self-service culture in Singapore."
The store will be fully run by NYP's School of Business Management students specialising in retail, with help from their lecturers and advisers from Cheers. Over 50 of them will be selected annually and deployed in several batches throughout the year to run the store.
Instead of having to man the store at the front end, the students will "move up the value chain... (and) take a more strategic approach to drive the success of the store", said NYP principal Jeanne Liew.
For example, they will use data and video analytics to study purchasing behaviour and customise the store's inventory accordingly.
The store at NYP opens from Monday to Friday between 7.30am and 7.30pm.
Cheers plans to pilot another unmanned convenience store in Tampines by the end of August.