Polish supermarket chain Lewiatan has launched its first self-service store in Kraków in response to the country’s Sunday trading ban.

The store, which has a similar design to a vending machine, is open 24/7, including holidays and Sundays. According to the company, around 200 products are available in the store, including dairy products, meat, sweets, bread and drinks, with an adjustable cooling system keeping food fresh.

The shop also features a hot drinks machine, although alcohol is unavailable, as the store is unable to recognise whether buyers are over 18, reports the website wiadomoscihandlowe.pl.

“Using a finely tuned conveyor belt, the ordered product is transferred into a special elevator, which collects purchased products and delivers them to the window where the purchases are issued,” said Kazimierz Mars, vice-president of the Lewiatan Małopolska network, in a press release.

In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza, Mars confirmed that the store was launched in response to Poland’s Sunday trading ban, which has expanded this year, cutting down the number of Sundays on which shops can open annually from 14 to 7.

The ban was advocated by the Solidarity trade union with support from the church, and then passed into law by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in 2017. It was presented as a way to allow workers to spend Sundays with their families, while also supporting small, independent businesses against big international retailers. 

Poland’s Sunday trading ban to expand from start of 2020

According to Mars, the Lewiatan store is designed “to meet the expectations of our customers who want to do shopping at any time and our franchisees who do not want to always stand behind the counter.”

He added that goods will be restocked on Saturday evenings. To ensure that the shop adheres to the trading ban, stock will not be replenished on Sundays.

As reported by Gazeta.pl, the first self-service store of this type to open in Poland was Take & Go, which launched in the city of Poznań in September last year. In December 2019, French supermarket giant Carrefour also opened its first self-service store, which operates 24/7, and is located in Warsaw.

Last week, it was also reported that Poczta Polska, Poland’s state postal service, is looking at investing in more self-service machines  – or Smartboxes – for sending and receiving parcels, increasing numbers from 200 to 4000 by 2021.

Smaller stores are also embracing the self-service trend. Last month, an automatic pub opened in Sosnowiec, allowing drinkers to pour their own beer from taps once a pre-paid card is activated on a reader. The Imperial bar has also installed digital screens next to the taps, displaying the bitterness, acidity and sweetness of each beer.

Tomasz Trojanowski, the manager of the bar, told Dziennik Zachodni that self-service bars were very popular in the United States and Japan. “Now you can drink different craft beers in this way also in Sosnowiec,” he added.

Main image credit: Press release.

Juliette Bretan is a freelance journalist covering Polish and Eastern European current affairs and culture. Her work has featured on the BBC World Service, and in CityMetric, The Independent, Ozy, New Eastern Europe and Culture.pl.

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