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Aussie supermarket owners reject self-serve checkouts amid shake-up

Supermarket chain IGA is shaking things up with a new concept store, delivering a uniquely old-fashioned bespoke service, with some huge differences to Coles, Woolworths and Aldi.

The new stores, named IGA Local Grocer, will allow customers to choose which products they stock and are being rolled out in hundreds of locations across the country.

Every Local Grocer you enter will be different, with stock based entirely on the preferences of their local communities, while owners of the flagship store say it will remain free of self-serve checkouts.

IGA Local Grocer supermarket
IGA's Local Grocer supermarkets will stock products according to the preferences of their local communities. Source: Mikulas J / Event Photos Australia

By locals, for locals

The flagship Local Grocer store, Mint Fresh, has just opened in the suburb of Epping in Sydney's rapidly growing northwest.

Store owners Antoine and Richard Rizk surveyed residents through an app that connects local people with business owners, and also conducted weekly focus groups ahead of the store opening last month.

With close to 50 per cent of Epping's residents reporting Asian or South Asian heritage, the store features a comprehensive Asian offering as requested by locals, including frozen products like pork buns and dim sims, niche grocery items and fresh produce that's hard to find anywhere else.

IGA Local Grocer Mint Fresh store
The IGA Local Grocer Mint Fresh store has just opened in Epping in Sydney's diverse and rapidly growing northwest. Source: Mikulas J / Event Photos Australia

Mr Rizk says they listened to the needs of locals throughout the store design and stocking process.

"Being independently owned, we've listened to the needs of our community, which is reflected throughout our store, from our products, fit-out and all the way through to our staff members," Mr Rizk said.

Danielle Jenkinson, General Manager of Retail at IGA's parent company Metcash Food, says they've used customer surveys and a treasure trove of local shopping data to ensure all Local Grocer stores will carry a wide range of products that are relevant to their local communities.

IGA Local Grocer store owners Antoine and Richard Rizk
Brothers Antoine and Richard Rizk will not be installing self-service checkouts in their IGA Local Grocer store. Source: Mikulas J / Event Photos Australia

"It's these stores, run by locals, for locals, that really know their shoppers, offering a relevant range tailored for shoppers who buy as they need, Ms Jenkinson said.

"Shopper research and insights have been used to inform the new format IGA Local Grocer via surveys undertaken with 5,000 households and data analysed from over 2.8 million Australian shopping trips."

No self-serve checkouts

Following through on Local Grocer's mission of connecting with and serving local communities, the Mint Fresh owners have made a surprising decision for a busy city supermarket.

The brothers have decided there will only be staffed registers at their store, saying they've "chosen not to install self-serve checkouts" so that they "can truly get to know our local shoppers".

Every customer who shops at Mint Fresh will be served by a real person, a decision that is sure to please those shoppers angered by a lack of checkout staff at other supermarkets.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Antoine Rizk said their decision to not install self-serve checkouts wasn't data or research driven, but was just about "how we like to operate as a business" with a focus on "face-to-face interactions, actual conversations with customers and old fashioned customer service."

IGA has been contacted for clarification about how many IGA Local Grocer stores will offer self-serve checkouts.

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