The future of shopping will be revealed this week when Smart Store Europe opens in Windsor.

Smart Store is not a real shop but a demonstration of the next wave of technology, inviting us to a brighter future with no more check-out queues, no more seeking out boring necessities and no more sweet-grabbing children.

The customer will be handed a light pen to wave at the bar codes of routine, bulky items such as nappies and cereals. The order will then be assembled behind the shop, leaving customers free to make more exciting purchases.

This will mean big savings on floor space for the supermarkets. In Smart Store, 24 boxes of cereal are displayed in about four feet of shelf place. In conventional supermarkets, the cereals occupy more than 45 feet.

Smart Store is not open to the public but to demonstrate the latest technology to retailers, distributors and manufacturers.

One thing existing supermarkets have in common with old-fashioned grocery stores is queues. The supermarket of the future will not have any check-out. Customers will swipe their own bar codes as they put each item in the trolley and then pay the total without having to get everything out of the trolley and put it back again.

It will not be possible to cheat, because if the bar code of the future is not swiped it will be clever enough to activate an alarm.

Trolleys have video displays on the front to guide shoppers around the store. The displays will conveniently draw attention to special offers.

Parents need not worry about how the baby will fit into this trolley of technology. The video display will keep it quietly amused with cartoons on the other side.

The Independent, October 1998

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