Online grocery startup Supie says it is planning physical stores as it builds towards its goal of being a potential third major grocery retailer behind Foodstuffs and Countdown.

Founder and CEO Sarah Balle has told it has signed up about 55,000 customers, has about 130 staff, and is now planning physical stores — with the first location already mapped out.

But she says it won’t be the “big box” style, rather smaller, “community-focused”, high-tech – and probably unmanned.

“That top-up shop, you know, when you run out of bananas or you need another bottle of milk or a loaf of bread. [Supie stores] would mean that kiwis, particularly in the regions, will have access to a really handy top-up shop …  There’s some pretty awesome tech innovations across the world, and we’re really looking forward to rolling that out across New Zealand.”

In Japan, a convenience store operator announced it would open 1000 unstaffed shops by the end of 2024. These stores would be smaller and tech-centric, doing away with the cost of workers and relying on tech solutions such as artificial intelligence-equipped cameras, and sensors on shelves to track a consumer’s in-store selection.

She says Supie will bring a new wave of customer experience to New Zealand. Some communities don’t want big car parks, or a big box grocer. The Supie solution is 24-7, and trusts customers to “pop in and get something they need”. The planned physical expansion won’t happen this calendar year.

She says her own regular market comparisons shows Supie is, on average, cheaper by a dollar on most products she compared.

They currently operate their delivery service in Auckland, parts of Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Rotorua.

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