Stop & Shop in 5-Unit Test of High End 'Robotic' Vending Kiosks

QUINCY, Mass. - Supermarket self-service hits new heights for Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. here in a five-store test of vending machines offering high-end portable electronics and accessories, or premium skin care products.

The vending kiosks, featuring robotic arms that carefully pluck and dispense the expensive iPods and face creams, are from San Francisco-based ZoomSystems. Each store in the test boasts a Proactiv Solution skin care kiosk, and a consumer electronics kiosk with iPods, headphones and other electronics items.

"We hope our shoppers will enjoy the ease of finding these items -- not usually available at a supermarket -- at a great value," noted Stop & Shop director of new ventures Scott Forbes in a statement.

Stop & Shop spokesman Robert Keane told Progressive Grocer that the machines, which ZoomSystems calls "shops," have been in operation at the stores for a few weeks. The Ahold banner will evaluate their performance before deciding whether to roll out the program to other locations, Keane said.

ZoomSystems' fully automated machines are usually found in airports, malls, and department stores such as Macy's. However, Stop & Shop is not the first grocer to try the kiosks; Safeway's Vons chain has had a program in 15 stores in Southern California offering similar products.

Shoppers choose items in the machines using a touchscreen, then finalize their purchases with a credit or debit card. The purchased items are dispensed by a sophisticated robotic arm in the machine. According to ZoomSystems, patented optical technology in the kiosks delivers the product before the customer's credit or debit card is charged.

All of ZoomSystems' machines are networked and centrally monitored to ensure high reliability and customer service levels, the company said.

Stop & Shop stores also feature Redbox DVD rental kiosks.

Stop & Shop operates 389 stores throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey.
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