First Staffless, Mobile Store Launched in China

Wheelys, a Swedish Y Combinator startup, has launched the first staffless, mobile store called “Moby Mart” in Shanghai, China.

To shop at Moby, one needs to download an app. The app gives shoppers access to Moby store, with it shoppers can enter the store, choose a product, place it inside a smart basket and leave. There is no need for a cash register or a checkout queue as shoppers are automatically charged with the products they place inside the smart basket.

The store is powered by solar panels and has its own integrated air purifier. Wheelys’ Moby Mart aims to turn every parking space in the world into a 24-hour store. The company is currently developing a technology that will make the mobile store self-driving.

The staffless, mobile store is developed by Wheelys in collaboration with the Hefei University in China and Himalafy – a company that provides technology for unstaffed retail solutions. Wheelys is funded by, amongst others, Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail), Justin Waldron (co-founder of Zynga) and Jared Friedman (founder of Scribd).

“I grew up in the countryside in Northern Sweden,” Tomas Mazetti, one of Wheelys’ founders, told Fast Company. “The last store closed there in the 1980s sometime, and after that, everyone just commuted into the city, but that takes an hour. A little piece of the village died. Now, suddenly, in a place like that, the village can team up and buy one of these stores. If the village is really small, [the store] can move around to different villages.”

Wheelys estimates that each Moby store will cost less than $100,000 – about a tenth of the amount to build a traditional store.

“Combined with the possibility to deliver parcels, self-re-stocking, and AI deployment of big fleets, this is a glimpse of the radical new future of retail, and an existential threat to the world’s convenience stores,” Wheelys said in a statement.