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Walmart’s robo cart, Seven-Eleven’s big move, and more

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Are the days of staff corralling carts in parking lots over? Walmart apparently thinks so. The world’s biggest retailer has taken out patents on a self-driving cart.

Walmart’s robot shopping cart will be guided by sensors and cameras. Shoppers will be able to use their phone to summon a cart. Once done shopping, the cart drives itself back to a docking station.

The carts will perform double-duty. As they are driven through the store, sensors will check in-stock positions, planogram compliance and general cleanliness of the aisles.

C-store explosion

Japan’s Seven-Eleven is eying the U.S. to grow its convenience store empire.

The company’s expects to increase the number of Seven Eleven stores stateside to 20,000 from the 8,500 currently.

Among the reasons for the increase, according to Seven Eleven’s president Kazuki Furuya, is that American c-store shoppers are often now middle class, whereas in the past c-stores attracted lower income earners.

“Nein” to plastic bags

Germany’s hard discounter Lidl is saying no to plastic bags.

The company announced that it will stop using plastic bags next year in Germany. The move will save 100 million plastic bags a year, the company estimates.

Customers will be able to choose from five Lidl bag options in place of plastic: a cool-bag for frozen products, a Fairtrade-certified, 100% cotton bag, an unbleached paper bag and two versions of Lidl’s woven shopping bag.

Online takes off

The trouble with online grocery sales is they tend to sneak up on you. In Canada and the U.S., e-commerce tends to be less than 2% of the overall supermarket business.

But a new report from Internet Retailer suggests sales in America specifically are soaring. A 154% climb this year means that online will soon account for 6% of total U.S. grocery sales, according to Morgan Stanley.

Propelling this growth are the usual suspects—Walmart and Amazon—but also traditional supermarket retailers and a growing number of delivery options, from Instacart to meal-kit delivery services such as Blue Apron.

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