In the future there will no longer be Point of Sales systems at supermarkets or convenience stores. Self identifying technology (most likely in your cellphone) will allow you to walk into a market fill up you basket and then walk out. As you leave you will pass through sensors that will identify each of the items in your basket by the RFID chips embedded in the packaging and charge the credit card stored in your cellphone for the items.

Besides solving the problem shoplifting and ending long lines at the supermarket this trend could potentially turn the retailing on its head. Currently retailers by from wholesalers, marking the prices of goods up 10 to 250 percent. The markup is the gross margin. Retailers also make money by charging brands fees for prime space – generally about eye level – on their shelves. In the case of gas stations and convenience stores many brands will go as far as to come in an stock there own products, ensuring that they are always stocked in the right place and done so neatly. In this model the gas station or convenience store really only provides the brand with two things – physical real estate that reaches customers and a staff and POS that rings up transactions.

So what happens when all that matters is the proximity to customers? Undoubtedly most stores will be located in the same locations. But the model becomes much more like that of a vending machine than a super market. In this model it is possible that brands will simply pay the owner of the location to rent shelf space. The owner will earn this rent and nothing more. Gone are the retail profit margins. All of this money will be earned directly by the brand or distributor themselves. This will likely lead to more unified pricing for products across all vendors. Although the cost differential to rent shelves based on the expense of the underlying real estate will have of occasionally be accounted for.

Where’s the business opportunity in this? I’m not sure. The only thing that is (almost) certain in this whole shift is that some one is going to make millions by providing the hardware and software to power POS-less, cash-less, card-less transactions.

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