If you agree with the notion that “hell is other people,” the French may be on the verge of launching your ideal shop.

Supermarket giant Auchan is poised to open a store where there are no staff. And if you pick the right time to visit – the shop never closes so just turn up at 4am – you won’t see a living soul.

TheĀ Auchan Minute concept, due to be launched in March, is a clever blend of physical and digital innovation (“phygital” is the buzzword) and represents the logical progression of “smart shopping.”

Customers activate an app when they enter the shop, fill up their virtual basket and pay electronically on completion.

The European trial follows Auchan Retail’s successful roll out of 700 dinky stores (they are just 18sq m in size) in China. The shops look like red shipping containers and are stocked with 500 product lines including fresh food, snacks and drinks.

Auchan is the 11th largest food retailer in the world and the Auchan Minute concept is so called because shoppers can theoretically stock up and pay in 60 seconds.

The shop is tailor-made for busy city locations where pressure on land use, and land values, is the most intense. Grocery shopping is increasingly about “time optimisation” – basically, people all over the world want to spend as short a time as possible buying milk, baguettes or noodles – and the de-staffed shop environment cuts down in chit chat.

Auchan has not spoken in detail about how it combats shoplifting in a store with no staff. But as entry is gained via mobile technology, miscreants’ digital fingerprints are presumably captured on entry.