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Amazon opens first till-less stores outside US

Amazon opens first till-less stores outside US
Photo: CNN

Amazon opened its first cashless and no-tills convenience grocery shop in London on 4 March. The 2,500 sq ft Amazon Fresh store in Ealing Broadway features Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology whereby customers scan their phones on arrival, fill their bags with products and leave without any interaction with staff or a self-checkout machines. Shoppers scan a QR code on the way in, then just walk out with their accounts automatically billed as they leave, thanks to a number of cameras and sensors in the store ceiling tracking customers and their purchases, according to the BBC.

The Ealing store stocks hundreds of own-brand products and well-known brands, and also serves as a collection and return point for goods bought online. Amazon says it has sourced many of its own-brand groceries from UK suppliers itself, with other items coming from Morrisons and Booths, with whom it has pre-existing ties.

Matt Birch, the former Sainsbury’s executive who now leads Amazon Fresh Stores UK, said: “The focus is just on creating a really easy shopping experience for customers.

A second London Amazon Fresh store is understood to be opening in Notting Hill Gate, with others planned in city centres across the UK in the future. Amazon also operates seven Whole Foods Market supermarkets in the UK and is expected to expand further in the UK retail sector by buying one of the larger chains. The company is also reportedly offering to sell its Just Walk Out technology as a service that can be installed in other supermarkets.


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Tesco to return money meant to support struggling retailers

Tesco to return money meant to support struggling retailers © David Lally, licensed under Creative Commons Licence

© David Lally


UK retailer Tesco has promised to pay back the £585 million it saved from a business rates holiday aimed at helping struggling retailers cope with the Covid-19 crisis. Tesco’s chairman, John Allan, said that the retailer was conscious of its responsibilities to society and that the Big 4 giant did not need the saving due to remaining open and trading strongly throughout the pandemic.

The decision comes as supermarkets face growing calls to hand back the savings which were aimed at helping retailers that were unable to open and struggling to make ends meet.

Data compiled last month by real estate adviser Altus Group projected that the UK’s four largest grocers – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – and German rivals Aldi and Lidl would save around £1.87 billion as a result of the rates holiday.

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First RT-Mart Super opens in China

First RT-Mart Super opens in China

China’s largest retailer, Sun Art Group, has opened its first RT-Mart Super. Located in Changzhou. this is RT-Mart’s first medium-sized store. With a sales area of 3,900 m2, the store carries more than 1,500 SKUs, covering main categories such as fresh, dairy, chilled, ambient as well as general merchandise products. The group is actively seeking ways to lessen its reliance on hypermarkets, as China’s consumers gravitate towards smaller and more compact stores, partially driven by China’s urbanisation.

The RT-Mart Super is group’s latest move in its plans to develop a multi-channel and multi-format business. The retailer has also recently launched two other new formats: RT-mini (new convenience format) and RH Lavia (high-end boutique store).

The RT-Mart Super will focus on the fresh produce segment, with no overnight products being sold. Gradually increasing discounts throughout the day will be used to incentivise consumers to purchase the remaining stock, with all vegetables being free from 22:00 (for members only).

The stores will also feature a pet nursery facility near the entrance for looking after the pets while the owners are inside the store

A press release from RT-Mart read: “For RT-Mart, the establishment of this medium-sized store is an attempt to optimise and improve offline property efficiency and commodity efficiency. It is too early to say whether this format will become the main force of RT-Mart. Having said that, supermarkets that are of 3,000-4,000 square meters are rare but emerging in China. This represents a great opportunity for transforming hypermarkets. Our effort is more likely to be on an iterative process of test and learn. The new format will inevitably require a lot of explorations.” 


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The 900th store of Perekrestok supermarket

The 900th store of Perekrestok supermarket © X5 Group
© X5 Group


The retailer Perekrestok, part of X5 Retail Group (Russia), opened its 900th supermarket. It is located in Tyumen (Ural region). The design of the store comprises the departments of ready-to-eat and ready-to-go produces; there is a zone for healthy life style merchandise. Half of the supermarkets’ area is reserved for fresh category goods. The assortment includes 17,000 SKU.

Perekrestok has recently considerably expanded its penetration into Ural Federal region; 18 supermarkets were open in June and July.

By the end of June, Perekrestok was running 867 stores located in 146 cities and towns of Russia.

X5 Retail Group is the leading Russian FMCG retailer operating under several brand: Piaterochka (16,096 discounters), Perekrestok (867 supermarkets) and Karussel (62 hypermarket). The goods are consolidated on 42 distribution centers in several regions.

With the staff exceeding 307,000, the company is also one of the largest Russian employer.

Endeavouring to become the leader of digital transformation of the market, the Group uses the services of 1,500 IT and Data specialists.

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Alimerka automates fresh produce distribution with Cimcorp

Alimerka automates fresh produce distribution with Cimcorp © Alimerka
© Alimerka /// PRESS RELEASE


The Spanish supermarket chain is investing in logistics automation to ensure picking accuracy, enhanced freshness and longer shelf life.

Ulvila, Finland – 25 August 2020 – Cimcorp has received an order to automate the distribution of fresh produce for the regional Spanish grocery retailer, Alimerka. Robotic systems at the company’s Lugo de Llanera distribution center, just north of Oviedo, will serve all 173 of Alimerka’s stores across Northwest Spain, as well as another dozen or so customers of the group’s fresh produce distribution subsidiary, Codefrut.

Automation from Cimcorp will ensure availability across Alimerka’s fruit and vegetable product range, as well as security of supply to its retail stores. The company sets high standards of quality and service and demands the same from its suppliers. “We expect strict project management from Cimcorp in the implementation phase,” said Alimerka’s CEO, Alejandro Fernández González. “We’ve seen what the company has done for other grocery retailers, and that the Cimcorp team understands the challenges with fresh produce. We cannot have any delays due to disruption. Over 150,000 families a day rely on food being available in our stores.”

Cimcorp will supply automation for Alimerka’s distribution center in Lugo de Llanera © Alimerka


Family-owned Alimerka is a leading grocer in its home region of Asturias – where it has 1/3 market share – as well as in the neighboring regions of Galicia and Castile and León. According to Mr González, Alimerka has always taken pride in being an innovative company, committed to securing food production and therefore work opportunities in Asturias. “We have 6000 employees and we buy from local producers and farmers. Our commitment to the area is one of the reasons why our customers are loyal to us.”

Reliable and proven technology to maximize food freshness

Kai Tuomisaari, Cimcorp’s Vice President, Sales, said: “When dealing with food, and especially with perishable products, accuracy and reliability are essential. Everything has to be done quickly, as these products do not store well. The less time they spend in the distribution center, the sooner they are in stores and available to customers.”

No less than 120 tons of fresh produce pass through the Lugo de Llanera distribution center every day, six days a week, being handled in plastic crates to prevent bruising and ensure excellent quality from the field to the shelf. “With this automation, we want to ensure that there are no unscheduled stoppages,” explained Mr González. “Imagine if the automation didn’t work for one day: the stores would not receive fruit and vegetables, the produce in the logistics center would no longer be as fresh, and there wouldn’t be space for the 120 tons coming in the next day. We have to have a reliable solution so that the hard work, time and money invested in fresh produce doesn’t go to waste. This is why we have invested in fresh food automation from Cimcorp.”

Service agreement to guarantee longer system lifetime

To secure a longer lifecycle for the automation and avoid any unscheduled stoppages, Alimerka is also investing in preventive maintenance and 24/7 help desk support from Cimcorp. “Automation comes with a price tag,” commented Mr González, “but when you invest in high-quality automation, it ages well. Nevertheless, all automation has wearable parts that need to be replaced from time to time. Who better to maintain and repair the solution than the people who designed and installed it in the first place? Alimerka wants to get the most out of this investment, so we want to take care of it in order that it will last several decades.”

Cimcorp strengthens its presence in Spain

Commenting on the order, Jarkko Hakkarainen, General Manager of Cimcorp Iberia, said, “We already have a strong customer base in Spain and established offices in Madrid, but this deal with Alimerka strengthens our profile in the country. It also proves Cimcorp’s growth strategy – that the decision to expand our presence into some of our key markets has paid off and that our comprehensive service network through our parent company, Murata Machinery, Ltd., is valued by both existing and new customers.”

Jarkko Hakkarainen, General Manager of Cimcorp Iberia © Alimerka


About Alimerka

Established in 1986, Alimerka has grown to become a leading grocery retail group that today comprises three companies: Alimerka (grocery stores), Codefrut (fresh produce) and Masas Congeladas (bakery and pastries). The family-owned business has over 6000 employees and operates 173 stores, as well as a 108,000m2 distribution center in Lugo de Llanera. Codefrut places high value on local provenance, with 90% of the fresh produce it handles being Spanish and a high percentage of this originating in Asturias, with proximity of supply securing both freshness and environmental benefits through reduced transport miles.

About Cimcorp

Cimcorp Group – part of Murata Machinery, Ltd. (Muratec) – is a leading global supplier of turnkey automation for intralogistics, using advanced robotics, material handling and software technologies. As well as being a manufacturer and integrator of pioneering material handling systems for the tire industry, Cimcorp has developed unique robotic solutions for order fulfillment and storage for the food & beverage, retail, e-commerce, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and postal services sectors. Together with its parent company, Cimcorp boasts a worldwide network of service locations. Designed to reduce operating costs, ensure traceability and improve efficiency, these systems are used within manufacturing and distribution centers in over 40 countries across six continents. For more information, visit

Company contact

Maarit Leppäaho
Phone +358 10 2772 000

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Record sales for UK supermarkets

Sainsbury’s booked a fall in sales last month for the fifth straight quarter as the UK’s supermarket price war further erodes profit margins.

The covid-19 outbreak sparked the busiest month on record for UK supermarkets, with grocery sales in March soaring by 20.6% compared to the previous month. All 10 major UK supermarkets recorded sales increases during the first 3 months of 2020, according to the new data. Aldi reported an 11% rise in sales. Of the Big-4 supermarkets, Sainsbury’s performed best, with 7.4% growth. The UK’s second-largest supermarket, Sainsbury, is likely to see a further boost to its sales over the coming months following an agreement with WHSmith to sell over 90 new product lines in WHSmith hospital stores. These products will mostly consist of essentials such as toilet roll, pasta and UHT milk.

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SPAR South Africa’s rural hubs show promise

SPAR South Africa’s rural hubs show promise


Sustainable local supply chains for produce grown in remote areas are at the project’s heart

SPAR South Africa sees small-scale rural farmers as the key to a sustainable future for the vast nation. It believes they can help improve food security, affordability and nutrition for its rural communities. With the Dutch-founded SPAR Group and support from the Dutch government, it has created a rural hub business model based on packhouses serving as mini distribution centres in outlying areas of South Africa. The idea is to develop local supply chains of fresh produce in a cost-efficient and environmentally responsible way. And while its initial two hubs have not been without challenges and are not yet profitable, SPAR South Africa believes “we have created a sustainable model that can be rolled out nationally.”

More rural farmers starting to thrive 

SPAR’s first rural hub was established in Mopani, in Limpopo, South Africa’s northernmost province, in June 2016. It is based on the concept of a central fresh assembly point (FAP), which acts as a collection point for a range of fresh produce sourced from smallholder farmers to supply local SPAR stores within a radius of up to 200 km. SPAR says that over July 2018 / June 2019, 10 farmers/groups supplied the Mopani hub, many of whom could finance a portion of their business themselves for the first time – a sign that they can now stand on their own feet. The hub bought produce worth R1.26 million (≈€80,300) from them, with crops including green beans, baby marrows, butternuts, baby corn, cabbage, watermelon and lettuce. The hub in turn supplied 41 customers, most of which were SPAR stores, and in the past year sold more produce to informal traders, something seen as a significant development. A second rural hub business was established in Ikhwezi, in the northeastern province of Mpumalanga, in October 2017, with a group of 36 smallholder farmers. Over the same period, the Ikhwezi hub purchased produce worth R1.16 million (≈€74,000) from 24 farmers. Crops included tomatoes, cabbage, butternut, green beans, bitter melon, lettuce and sweet potatoes. The packhouse supplied 27 customers, most of which were SPAR stores.

Overcoming challenges

SPAR chairman Mike Hankinson says the rural hub project shows early signs of being financially sustainable for a group of small emerging farmers, but there was a need to find new ways for the economics around delivery and packing to make sense. One challenge was that low-margin products, such as cabbage and spinach, continued to be sourced by local SPAR stores directly from smallholder farmers in close proximity to the stores. However, many of these small businesses were at risk as they lacked food safety accreditation to sell their produce directly to stores. Routing these products through the FAPs, on the other hand, incurred unnecessary transport and handling costs. To address such issues, SPAR has developed a model to transport certain produce directly from farmer to store, while other items are distributed through the central FAP. Also, the farmers have received food safety training in order to get local.g.a.p certification, and technology solutions were introduced to help farmers grow high value crops and extend their growing seasons, thereby improving their sustainability. “We remain committed to the concept of rural farmers supplying fresh produce to SPAR stores. It has the potential to provide employment, grow rural economies, ensure food security and improve nutrition, while reducing transport costs for SPAR, shorten lead times, and increase freshness and shelf life,” Hankinson said.

SPAR South Africa acts as a supermarket supplier

Established in 1963, SPAR South Africa grants licences to independent retailers to operate stores under one of four formats, with almost all of its current store portfolio independently owned. “The SPAR Group in Southern Africa acts as a wholesaler distributing the entire range of goods stocked by a typical supermarket, including fresh produce,” SPAR South Africa fresh food manager Peter Gohl told ED. “We supply a range of about 450 fresh produce products to about 850 independently owned and managed SPAR retail stores through 6 strategically located distribution centres. Excluding our SPAR Group Ltd European and UK/Irish holdings, the Southern Africa turnover in fresh produce amounted to about €320 million over the past 12 months. Of this, the fruit category contributed €130 million and imports in the fruit category amounted to €28 million,” he said.


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Japanese supermarket giant Aeon, in online grocery push

AEON organic retail store

AEON organic retail store

Credit: Aeon



Aeon is partnering with British online grocery pioneer Ocado to launch a new company by March 2020 that will use AI and robotics to deliver a cutting-edge digital experience. Also, as a sustainability initiative, Aeon has set up a platform to help boost organic farming in Japan, where demand is outstripping supply of organic food.


Fresh food delivery has yet to truly take off among the Japanese, who largely still pick up fresh produce on a daily basis. But with better logistic networks and different demographics – such as more dual-income households and senior citizens – that’s forecast to change. And with AmazonFresh already in Tokyo, and Walmart (owner of Aeon rival Seiyu) beefing up its online grocery delivery together with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, it’s no surprise that supermarket Aeon is also making the leap. In a statement in November, Aeon said it will leverage Ocado’s world leading know-how to launch and operate “the next generation online supermarket.” It plans to open its first customer fulfilment centre harnessing the Ocado Smart Platform by 2023 to serve Japan’s Kanto region, followed by others over the following two years in order to eventually serve the whole country. And it anticipates achieving online grocery sales of about 600 billion yen (about €4.92b) by 2030. “Aeon will realise a highly efficient operations and distribution system to deliver ‘anytime, anywhere, anything’ through a superb application interface to meet our customer needs. It is expected that these technologies can be utilised for the existing Aeon online supermarket business, store pick up, click & collect,” the company said in a press release. Aeon also plans to seek more partners both in Japan and around the world in order to be at the forefront of the digital era. Ocado, it should be mentioned, has also been chosen as a partner by other major supermarket groups around the world, including Kroger in the US, Casino in France, Marks & Spencer in the UK, ICA in Sweden and Coles in Australia.

Produce from farms run by Aeon Agri Create // Credit: Aeon


A platform to boost organic production 

Two other key initiatives from Aeon are in the area of organic food. Back in 2017, among the sustainable procurement goals the group set itself was that of boosting the sales ratio of organic products to 5% of all its agricultural products by 2020, also when Tokyo will host the summer Olympics. Aeon says it wants to contribute to “human, social and environmental health” through organic products, furthermore ones that are “cultivated, distributed and consumed naturally.” It also says it is “responding to our customer demands for safer, better tasting, and environmentally friendly food products.” However, while interest in organic produce is on the rise in Japan, “supply of organic products has not caught up with growing consumer demand,” it says, and “organic JAS certified producers in Japan account for only 0.2% of all farmers.” Given this context, in September 2019 the retailer announced another initiative, the new Aeon Organic Alliance (AOA). In a statement, it said this platform will boost the supply of organic products and help farmers overcome the burden of high organic cultivation costs and those incurred due to inefficient distribution, as well as giving them opportunities to gain new skills, exchange information and share and solve issues together. The AOA platform will be used to “centrally manage production, procurement, processing, distribution, and sale of organic agriculture products.”

Organic produce in Bio c’ Bon store in Japan // Credit: Aeon


14 new organic stores in Japan

AOA members will also have access to technological know-how for the acquisition of Global G.A.P. and organic JAS certification. Aeon has acquired such expertise via the 20 farms it directly manages across Japan. The farms are operated by the company Aeon Agri Create and three hold organic JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard) certification, one of which is the fully organic 16 ha Saitama Hidaka Farm. Aeon’s organic farms will serve as distribution bases that collect products from growers who are members of its organic alliance, thus reducing distribution and delivery costs while also facilitating joint purchasing of materials necessary for cultivation, which in turn lowers costs. Furthermore, an AOA website will share what is happening in stores, including customer feedback, product line-ups, and sales performance, as well as overseas trends and other relevant information. It will also serve as a communication platform for connecting producers. Another group subsidiary, Aeon Topvalu, develops Aeon’s private brand for organics, Topvalu Gurinai, which is sold in group stores across Japan. Also providing a sales outlet for organic produce in Japan are the Bio c’Bon stores operated by Aeon in partnership with French firm Bio c’ Bon. There are now 14 such stores in Japan.

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Victory supermarkets adopting GLOBALGAP standards

In response to the growing concerns of the Israeli consumers for food security, Victory is the first supermarket chain to adopt the GLOBALGAP Standards. “We decided to adopt an international standard in order to avoid the duplicity of audits and residue analysis” declares its managing director Eyal Ravi. He indeed considers both growers retailers and consumers will benefit with a common standard required on the domestic and export markets.  
Victory is a discount type of supermarket, with 25 stores of 1,500m2 average and a market share of 3%.