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Most read in 2019

China's unmanned store boom ends as quickly as it began

Companies that learn from closures could still win the future of retail

TOKYO -- When Chinese tech companies started rushing to open unmanned convenience stores a couple of years ago, some seasoned bricks-and-mortar players said the trend would soon hit a dead end. They were right: Across China, shops once considered the future of retail have been shutting their doors for good.

In May, on Huaqiang North Road in the heart of Shenzhen's electronics shop district, a Buy-Fresh Go store that had been held up by the media as a model of automated retail closed after only about a year. The store had been stripped of all its high-tech equipment and an ad seeking a new tenant was placed at the entrance.

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