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Business trends

Automation fails to win China convenience store war

Japanese-style focus on products also takes off as tech proves tricky

Technical problems shut down an automated Jian24 store in Shanghai. (Photo by Naoki Matsuda)

SHANGHAI -- Chinese convenience stores are rushing to adopt automation, often with limited success, and the chains are looking to their experienced counterparts in Japan for other inspiration to stand out in a packed market boasting over 70 operators.

A new player in the industry showed off an unstaffed store featuring the latest technology, including artificial intelligence and facial recognition, at a May meeting of the China Chain Store & Franchise Association. "From now on, stores will have to be built with AI," a representative of the company said at the meeting.

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