The souped-up vending machines will offer a wide range of goods, from food and hygiene products to mobile phones and tickets for public transport. Beer and cigarettes will not be sold by the machines, and fruit and vegetable vending would also be “problematic”.
They will be installed and operated by private investors, and the bidding process for the available sites will get under way in the near future. City Hall will have no say in the pricing of the different products.
A pilot version of the vending machines, complete with reinforced glass and a “robot interface” that communicates with customers, has already been set up near Moscow’s Pushkin Square, offering up 214 different goods, including milk, cereals and shoe brushes, often at more expensive prices than at ordinary kiosks and convenience stores.
The machines, designed by the Moscow-based Art. Lebedev Studio, come in a number of different versions, the biggest being 20 square metres in size and stocking 400 products, according to the website of the operating company, Vsyo Sam.
Street kiosks sprung up en masse in Moscow in the 1990s, a process that went hand-in-hand with the development of retail trade as the planned communist economy disintegrated. Relatively cheap to open, if not particularly pleasing to the eye, they provided businessmen a chance to get their feet on the first rung of the ladder, before moving on to buy or rent fixed retail space.