Automated Cashierless Grocery Store Concept ‘Aisle 24’ Launches Aggressive Cross-Canada Store Expansion


Share post:

Aisle 24, a fully automated, cashierless grocery store concept that is open 24/7, is in expansion mode with plans to open numerous locations across the country.

John Douang, Co-Founder & CEO of the company which opened its first location in Toronto in 2016, said the hyperlocal, unmanned market is in nine locations currently in Ontario and Quebec and about 30 stores are in the queue in either lease discussions and construction including in British Columbia.

“We utilize a lot of technology to supplement the store operations and we use a lot of our own platform of technology in order to secure the stores. All the stores are unmanned. We don’t have cashiers and we don’t have staff that are on site to greet customers or anything like that,” said Douang.

“The stores are 24/7, 365 days a year and the way it works is that all of our customers download our mobile app. They create their account and then they get access to the stores.”

Aisle 24 Market in River City 4 (Photo by Dustin Fuhs)

Douang said there are two sizes for the stores. The first is the resident format which is typically inside the common area of a building. It’s about 350 to 600 square feet. The second is the community format which can go into a standard commercial space and those typically range from 1,000 square feet plus.

“We are more so a market rather than a convenience store because we don’t sell age-restricted products . . . We carry a wide range of grocery products. We’re like a mini market where you can find fresh prepared foods like sandwiches, soups, salads. A wide variety of frozen type goods. Your typical pantry type items. So canned goods, confectionary items like snacks and drinks as well. Mostly around grocery products. We do carry things like electronic accessories like cables and chargers and home goods like cleaning products and personal hygiene products,” he said.

“Our strategy for our store growth has been around placing our stores into residential communities. So we’re working with a lot of major national and international property developers to spec out space within their master planned communities – mostly around densely populated areas. We like to be in communities that have a dense population, usually by way of condominiums and apartment buildings . . . Our strategy has always been bringing the convenience to the customer so they don’t have to travel far to get some items.”

The company started franchising in 2020 and is supported by major investor and advisor, the newest Dragon on CBC’s Dragons Den – Wes Hall.

“I quite honestly feel that Canada can support literally thousands of Aisle 24 stores. When you look at the market as a whole, right now in Canada there’s about over 27,000 convenience stores and over 65 per cent of those are independently owned,” explained Douang. “We feel there’s a big gap in the market and that we can help to consolidate the market and bring a more consistent experience to the consumer.”

In September 2016, in partnership with Knightstone Capital and Centennial College, Aisle 24 launched Canada’s first cashierless grocery store at Centennial Place student residence, tailored to the specific purchasing habits of their community.

“COVID has changed a lot of things. I think even pre-COVID we were on the right trends – what the younger generation, the Gen Z’s, the Millennials, what they want because those people in those age categories are not shopping for the whole week. They’re doing two to three shopping sessions per week and they’re shopping for today and they’re shopping for tomorrow,” said Douang.

“Along those lines, people don’t want to have to deal with grocery shopping in a mega store. It’s almost become a burden now. They want to get in, they want to get out. Shopping is a necessity but it’s not enjoyable and they want to get on with their lives and that’s what we’re about. Our main motto is saving you time so you can focus on what is really important.

“Pre COVID we were already seeing a lot of interest and a lot of growth in our sector. COVID hit and I think it’s even more important now that our customers feel safer shopping closer to home where they have less risk and less exposure to potentially COVID. Their shopping behaviours are changing. They’re shopping more local. They are enjoying the touchless aspect of the business. They don’t need to speak with anybody in the store. They can go in, get what they need and leave in a few minutes.”

Aisle 24 Market in River City 4 (Photo by Dustin Fuhs)

The Aisle 24 process is simple. People download the mobile app, register an account and can get access right away. The mobile app also delivers special promotions and customer surveys. Customers use the app to unlock the door and start browsing. Every store includes enhanced security systems to discourage theft and reconciles inventory each week to closely track shrinkage.

Residents use the self-service kiosk to scan the products they want to purchase. Products are neatly displayed on open shelves and grocery freezers. If shoppers can’t find something, they can make requests via the kiosk for specific dietary requirements or preferences.

When it comes to paying, the only thing shoppers need is their smartphone, payment card, and a bag to carry their groceries.

The Aisle 24 store is serviced at least three times a week to clean, replenish shelves and check inventory.

Justin Curtis of Oberfeld Snowcap is handling site selection and real estate needs for Aisle 24.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More From The Author



Subscribe to the Newsletter


* indicates required

Related articles

Canadian Grocers Take a Page from Carrefour’s Playbook to Tackle ‘Shrinkflation [Op-Ed]

French supermarket chain Carrefour has labeled products impacted by reduced size, and similar measures may be adopted in Canada to enhance transparency in food pricing, says Sylvain Charlebois.

Jeweller Mejuri Debuts Personalized App and Innovative Membership Program; Plans Expansion with 5 New Stores [Co-Founder Interview]

The popular brand's personalized mobile app and membership program aim to enhance customer engagement and personalization, as Mejuri enters major markets with stores.

Fast-Casual Restaurant Concept MightyBird Opening 1st Location in Toronto in a Partnership [Interviews]

The new concept at Union Station will be the first of many in a partnership between Eat Up Canada and Open Concept Hospitality.

KIT + ACE Launches Store Expansion in Canada Under New Ownership [Interview]

The Vancouver-based retailer will open two locations this fall in Toronto and Calgary, with plans for a substantial expansion into 2024 says CEO David Lui.

Casual Steakhouse Chain MR MIKES Expanding Further in Canada [Interview]

With plans for continued expansion into Western Canada and Ontario, the restaurant chain is evolving its concept and targeting smaller markets to establish itself as a hub for local communities.

Canadian Retail Sales: A Slight Recovery Amidst Economic Challenges [J.C. Williams Group Analysis]

The analysis explores the noteworthy trends in the health and wellness sector, the resilience of certain retail categories, and the impending holiday season's strategic considerations for retailers.

Bloor Street Retail Transformation: Luxury Brands, Renovations, and New Openings in Toronto [Podcast]

Craig and Lee take a deep dive into the dynamic changes occurring on Toronto's Bloor Street West, noting the street's resurgence as a thriving hub for luxury shopping in the city.

Ricardo’s Kandy Korner to Open Flagship Candy Store at CF Toronto Eaton Centre in Toronto [Interview]

Entrepreneur Ricardo Rizaie says he’s planning to take his experiential candy retail concept across Canada after opening a third Canadian storefront in downtown Toronto.

PizzaForno Expands Into Toronto’s Public Transit System, Sets Sights on Airport Locations for Automated 3-Minute Pizzas [Interview]

This innovative move marks PizzaForno's entry into the public transit sector, and demonstrates its commitment to becoming the fastest-growing pizza chain in North America by 2024.

Calgary’s Retail Space Crunch Drives Surge in Rental Rates and Demand [Report]

A variety of complicated factors are at play as Calgary retail space sees demand given market growth, while new supply is limited due to factors such as construction costs.

Lush Cosmetics Sets Ambitious Expansion Plans for Canada Including New Spa Locations, Services, and Entertainment Partnerships [Interview]

The UK-based retailer is innovating with its Canadian operations with enhanced customer experiences and unique treatments, while launching a new app to facilitate bookings and provide more information about products and services.

Canadian Consumers Adjust to Higher Cost of Living [Survey/Video Interview]

An Angus Reid survey asked Canadians how they're navigating elevated inflation, a higher cost of living and a potential recession.