Amazon has promised the retailing world something amazing when it released its cashierless store last year. However, the “everything store” still has yet to make it available to the greater public, but Chinese startups aren’t sitting on their laurels. Already, a few have ready-to-go products with comparable features.

“Staffless,” or automated stores, are nothing new, but internet companies have managed to reinvigorate it with the latest technology, like bike-rental have done recently. They appeared in the earliest form of vending machines, which can be found across the globe. In Japan, where automation has been raised to almost sacred levels, there’s approximately one vending machine for every 23 people, booking annual sales that total more than $60 billion. Several reasons contributed to the huge popularity of automated stores in Japan from a lower cost of labor, expensive real estate, and more.

Unlike its neighbor, vending machines have yet to fully blossom in China. But the factors that propelled vending machine’s huge popularity in Japan have begun to take root in China.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.