FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

AutoCart Aims to Redefine the Supercenter

"Big box" retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot currently rule the high-volume retail space, but an upstart plans to take them on with a wholly new business model. New Mexico-based AutoCart LLC plans to open two drive-thru supercenters in Arizona toward the end of this year.

In the AutoCart concept, shoppers never need to get out of their cars. As with drive-thru fast food, shoppers select what they want from drop-down screens, then pick up their order and pay at the other end. Shoppers can also pre-order online to save time. "Customers will choose the AutoCart Supercenter facility every time over fighting traffic, harsh weather conditions and parking problems that are inherent when shopping at conventional retail facilities," says AutoCart president Steve Beardsley.

AutoCarts will rely heavily on automation, robotics and patented logistical processes to package and deliver each order, much of it provided by FKI Logistex. AutoCart Supercenters can include product lines from multiple retailers, including small and niche retailers. The business model also promises to reduce "shrinkage" (retail jargon for shoplifting and product damage) and overhead to keep costs low.

According to AutoCart, each of its facilities will be able to serve 12,000 cars per day. Over the next decade, the company hopes to open more than 1,500 supercenters throughout North America.

AutoCart may prove to be an attractive compromise between current supercenters (which can be crowded and hectic) and e-commerce (where customers have to pay shipping costs). While AutoCart is not a threat to upscale and botique retailers, which emphasize the shopping experience, established big box retailers may want to watch their backs.

Sources: Drug Store News,
The Eponymous Pickle