The horn honks three times and the engine of the imposing white and orange Mercedes-Benz Vario switches off. Soon people begin to come out of their houses, eager to discover what the supermarket on wheels has to offer. This sunny June day has brought beautiful strawberries, so Lemke has selected piecrust dough to go with it, knowing it will make a delicious dessert for his customers’ tables. He started at three o’clock in the morning to hand-pack fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products as well as other food and non-food everyday essentials, offering a total range of over two thousand items. His Vario left the warehouse at eight o’clock in the morning and will serve eight villages today. “If the people don’t come to the market, we have to bring the market to the people”, he says. “Rolling supermarkets” cover the entire German territory, with a great added value: they know exactly what customers want because they meet them personally dozens of times a day.
Lemke points out, proud of having a higher inventory turnover than the big players in the grocery sector. He founded his “rolling supermarket” over thirty years ago, with the aim of making life easier for less mobile people and eliminating the stress of finding a parking space in crowded urban centers. The business now serves three federal states in Germany, employing thirty-eight store managers who are more than merely drivers. They are in charge of choosing their product ranges, placing their orders, loading their vans and selling their products. So skillfully that at the end of the day their Mercedes-Benz Vario return to the depot empty. “All our products are best-sellers”, Lemke adds.
With nearly two-meter high ceilings and a total surface of twelve square meters, the Vario are ready for a real customer experience.
With nearly two-meter high ceilings and a total surface of twelve square meters, the Vario are ready for a real customer experience. “It is self-service in our vans”, Lemke explains. The fleet of sixteen Mercedes-Benz vans was customized using his know-how: metal shelves arranged like in a regular supermarket and even refrigerated compartments for frozen-food. The Vario have enough space for a product range from shoe brushes to curd cheese and enough power for a total weight of 7.4 tonnes. Having last renewed his fleet twenty years ago, Lemke’s rolling supermarket has been using the Vario since 1975. They were very sad when Mercedes-Benz announced that it was going to cease producing their beloved van in 2013. Let us hope they surprise us all with an even better alternative!
Number of Mercedes-Benz Vario
Average products sold day/van
Villages visited day/van
50 to 60
Number of customers day/van
Mercedes-Benz Vario 816D