OKay Direct, the supermarket that is always open

The opening of the first OKay Direct on 9 November 2021 made the headlines of all newspapers. Customers can do their shopping with their Xtra-account, without the intervention of any in-store staff. Self-service, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This project has been accomplished in less than a year. Unprecedented, and without compromising on quality. In a relatively small area, we offer everything our customers need. Speed, quality and high technology are the key words.

Gert Somers, city formulas manager at OKay, and expansion manager Nathalie Meganck are at the cradle of this innovative project.

  • Limited assortment for a young audience
  • Central location in the heart of Ghent
  • Independent shopping
  • Store open 24/7

In cijfers

“We are making a statement with this OKay Direct. The store in Ghent proves that innovation and speed go hand in hand.”

Gert Somers | OKay city formulas manager

Technological innovation

For customers who expect a traditional supermarket, OKay Direct will take some getting used to. You gain access to the shop by scanning the QR code on your Xtra app or card. The QR code opens the doors of the (refrigerated) cabinets, so you can take out the products. All purchases are registered based on product detection in the racks. By scanning the QR code again at the checkout, the final bill is automatically generated and you can pay electronically before leaving the store. You handle your purchases completely autonomously and at your own pace. And there is a future in it, because this innovative pilot project is a test case to assess the feasibility, popularity and success of this type of shopping in a city environment. If the tests prove positive, the concept will be rolled out on a larger scale to other major cities.

Consultation with the city of Ghent

Student city Ghent is the ideal location to try out this kind of concept. If you know Ghent a little, you may have your doubts about the chosen location. The Belfortstraat is a major connecting road with a lot of public transport. Loading and unloading close by is therefore not an option. Parking right in front of the door is almost impossible. Together with the city of Ghent, we made arrangements that work well for everyone. Our drivers deliver twice a day, between 6 and 7 a.m. and then between 8 and 9 p.m. to avoid the busiest moments. For the rest of the time, there will be no staff at the store.

Always open

On a 150 m² area, OKay Direct has a product range of 650 items, including fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and bread. In addition, ready-made meals are also available for customers. Shopping 24/7 in their own neighbourhood is definitely a great added value for customers. We especially intend to address target groups which will benefit from a store with longer opening hours. Think of students or people with irregular working hours.

Moving fast

Compared to previous projects, OKay Direct is going really fast. Despite the shorter time span, we did work very thoroughly, also in this case. At the beginning of 2021 we first checked with local brokers to see if they had a suitable property in their portfolio. We opened the doors at the beginning of November 2021. In the meantime, we completed the renovation and fully furnished the store. This OKay Direct is the best proof that we can respond quickly, without compromising on quality.

The process

November 2020: Project start-up

April 2021: Start of lease agreement

September 2021: Licence granted

9 November 2021: Store opening