Hybrid App-Based Convenience Store Launches 1st Location in Downtown Edmonton [Interview/Photos]

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Vender Convenience recently launched in downtown Edmonton, calling itself one of Canada’s first hybrid convenience stores.

“It’s staffed during the day, cashier-less, basically an app-based convenience store,” said James Johnson, Owner of Vencer Convenience.

“You can use the app for everything from entering the store, to scanning items and cashing out. It’s 24/7 but staffed during the day.”

Staff is on hand from about mid-morning to mid-afternoon to stock shelves and be available to help customers.

Image: Vender Convenience

The first Vender Convenience store is located at 9917 109 Street, near the Alberta Legislature and the High Level Bridge.

“I’ve lived and worked downtown since about 2010. This is where I work now. There’s almost no convenience stores left downtown, especially 7-11. They’re not in downtown,” said Johnson. “It’s been happening across the country and really accelerated under COVID.”

With more people working from home, there’s been less traffic in the downtown and some restaurants aren’t open all the time for lunch.

“So I thought there was an opportunity to meet the needs of the neighbourhood and there’s been a good response so far,” he said.

Image: Vender Convenience
Image: venderconvenience.com

The Edmonton location is 1,346 square feet.

“It was developed with the franchise in mind or at least expansion in mind because you know the saying, do you have a business or do you have a job? I wasn’t looking to have a job,” said Johnson. “If it was just for one spot I wouldn’t have done it. There are other spots where it can be applied to.

“A large institution approached me a few days ago wanting to learn more. Building owners downtown have shown up to learn more. Even when I walked through the first time with my landlord they were like well we’ve got some space in another building if you’re interested. 

“I think it’s a really flexible format . . . It’s just the beginning for this model.”

Image: Vender Convenience

According to the company’s website, the idea for Vender Convenience was born during the Johnson family’s Easter celebration. When they ran out of milk and eggs, and Johnson discovered that the local store was closed, he decided to find a solution to the problem. His goal? To be able to shop in his local area whenever a need arises, without having to manage a store himself all day. This was the starting point for Vender Convenience, powered by Storekey’s technical platform.

All payment is made through Storekey’s Scan & Go solution, freeing up staff for in-store customer service and queries. 

Storekey is a retail tech company founded in 2018. It leverages a best-in-class solution that removes friction for consumers by solving problems for retailers. Its platform is compatible with all retail verticals and businesses that wish to improve their services. Today, several international store chains and independent stores use its technology. Amongst them, is Europe’s first and largest unmanned grocery store chain – Lifvs.

“The one I picked is at the foot of an office tower,” said Johnson. “And there’s lots of nearby residential towers. You need a lot of the things that any convenience store would need. You need foot traffic, you need a lot of people nearby. 

“But I don’t know why it couldn’t be in your neighbourhood corner store. I don’t know why it couldn’t be in a residence for a dormitory. I don’t know why it couldn’t be at an airport . . . It’s so flexible with the technology. It’s pretty easy to adopt . . . The scan and go approach is going to be the bridge that’s the hybrid.”

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.

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