24 Hour Customer Access
This model has been tested with success in the United States. Think of it like a 24 hour gym, but for food. Members are given a swipe card, which allows them access to the shop at any time of day to do their shopping. The store is monitored by security cameras, however, operates very much on trust and works particularly well in areas with a strong sense of community.
This model saves on staff costs and ensures that food prices remain competitive. It also enables suppliers to deliver their goods at any hour of the day and to restock the shelves themselves, which again works to the advantage of the producers who may be too busy on-farm during traditional shop hours.
The shop is normally staffed during some periods to enable non-members to shop there also – maybe only 10 or so hours a week.
Farmhouse Market, New Prague Minnesota is an example. Through its business structure and technology, this store operates and is open to its members 24/7. It is fully staffed and open to the public just 9 hours per week.
Members at Farmhouse Market pay an upfront fee and sign a legal contract, yet they are not owners like a typical grocery co-op. They receive a 5% discount, can shop whenever they want and also have access to an upstairs community space for activities like kombucha-making and sewing classes.
Even Farmhouse Market’s suppliers have 24/7 access. The store works with 15 local farmers who have key cards and can stock the shelves when it is convenient for them. The store uses surveillance equipment that allows the owner to monitor the store from her phone, but so far it has not been needed. Every shrinkage incident (“theft”) has been accidental, and the shoppers themselves have brought the oversight to the owners’ attention.
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