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Cashier-less convenience store Bianlifeng likely profitable in 2020, against industry trends

Written by Song Jingli Published on 

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The company raised a total of USD 1.5 billion in venture capital funds to back its growth.

Beijing-based cashier-less convenience store chain Bianlifeng is to turn profitable by the end of this year, 36Kr reported on Monday, citing predictions from sources with knowledge on the matter.

The sources revealed that Bianlifeng’s Beijing business in about 500 stores had turned profitable since one year ago, adding that the company had raised a total of USD 1.5 billion in venture capital funds so far to back its growth.

Bianlifeng confirmed with 36Kr about the profitability of its Beijing stores and the fundraising sum, adding that all money will be invested in China’s convenience store market, but did not share the company’s prediction for this year’s financial performance.

Bianlifeng stores allow users to scan their purchases and pay for them, without the help of a cashier.

While the future seems promising for the company, founded in late 2016, its peers are undergoing a hard time. OurHours, another convenience store chain, once planned to close down all its stores in Beijing on May 20 due to operational difficulties but decided to keep operating with help from its former rival Haolinju Supermarket, according to Chinese media outlet Jiemian. Tencent-backed supermarket chain operator Yonghui Superstores Co (SHA: 601933) disclosed that the company closed 74 convenience stores, in the first quarter, KrASIA reported.

Unlike OurHours and Yonghui, which still have cashiers, Bianlifeng allows users to scan QR-code-enabled point-of-sale terminals to close transactions via mobile payment by themselves, although there are some staff in the store for manual duties like serving prepared foods, restocking items, and conducting cash payments, if necessary. In addition to more than 1,000 brick-and-mortar stores already opened by September 2019, the company has set up vending machines inside office buildings.

Bianlifeng, which runs its own app and a mini-program on WeChat, also provide services such as grocery delivery enabled by its own couriers and shared bikes with larger baskets set in front to carry groceries.

The company, launched by online travel agency Qunar founder Zhuang Chengchao, claims to combine big data with proprietary software and algorithms to decide store locations, adjust stocked goods, and prices based on sales.

36Kr is KrASIA’s parent company

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