Project overview

Retail in a Box is a turnkey solution that supports food supply chains by delivering pop-up stores. WFP works with local retailers to kickstart local markets or accelerate market recovery in emergencies and fragile economic contexts.

The problem

WFP cash-based transfers of humanitarian assistance is a proven and efficient way to enable people to purchase the food they need, when it is locally available. The added benefit is that it stimulates local economies that include farmers, retailers, and markets. 

Communities facing conflict, climate shocks or disasters often see the destruction of their food systems  including retail market infrastructures  interrupting their access to food, paradoxically when food is still being locally produced. Similarly, when people flee conflict or disaster, they may arrive in places with no food supply, markets or shops.

The solution

Retail in a Box is a supply chain solution that facilitates people’s access to essential goods in emergency and market development contexts. Retail in a Box aims to kickstart retail networks for affected populations to purchase food using WFP's cash-based assistance in places where there are no markets or market infrastructures, for example in refugee camps and remote areas.

In emergencies, Retail in a Box delivers pop-up stores to communities in need. In a market development context, the focus is on working with retailers to build their own stores with local workforce and materials. 

The customizable package provides store blueprints and layouts, retail operational guidance, and capacity-building support. The store infrastructure can be locally built or may be brought in upon request.

The objective is to build a reliable market to serve the local community, and is run by the local community.

Blueprints and shop infrastructure
Blueprints and shop infrastructure
Retail training and best practices
Retail training and best practices
Local retailers
Retail in a Box
Retail in a Box
Our work in Mozambique

In Masquil Alto, a rural area in Mozambique, people receiving WFP assistance have to travel significant long distances to access markets and redeem WFP’s cash-based assistance.

Since November 2020, Retail in a Box has been working together with local retailers to build permanent shops from local materials, and bring markets closer to where people live, effectively shortening the distance of the last mile to food security.

Retail in a Box in Mozambique
Retail in a Box in Mozambique
Our work in Bangladesh

Retail in a Box launched in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, in December 2020.

Cox's Bazar hosts the world’s largest refugee camp, where most of WFP’s assistance is delivered through cash-based transfers. With the rapid shift from in-kind food to cash-based assistance, WFP has to quickly scale up the onboarding of new retailers. Two existing retailers working with WFP have opened a new shop in a structure provided by Retail in a Box, which aims to create a more efficient and smooth shopping experience for both retailers and people using WFP cash-based assistance.

By enabling refugees to buy food in local stores, WFP affords people with the dignity of choice, the ability to eat local produce, and support the local economy.


South Sudan

Retail in a Box has made a significant impact in South Sudan, helping over 35,000 people to choose the products they want to eat for the first time in 10 years, using their WFP assistance. The initiative supported 30 local retailers from the host and refugee community to move into new shops and provided retail training to 280 retailers. The retailers were connected to wholesalers to ensure a consistent supply of non-food items (NFIs) that program participants could purchase with cash. To set up these shops, empty shipping containers were donated and adapted to serve as shops. This initiative has led to the creation of a thriving local market, which provides a monthly injection of cash into the local economy. To expand the initiative's reach to rural areas, Retail in a Box has launched a new sub-sect called "Retailer on Wheels," which is a mobile retail shop. This project has received a grant of 150K from UPS. Retail in a Box has not only supported the local economy but has also provided a lifeline for the people of South Sudan to have access to basic commodities that were once scarce.

The way forward

Retail in a Box will continue to grow and support retail activities in Mozambique and Bangladesh in 2021.

Additionally, Retail in a Box is now scaling to reach communities affected by COVID-19 in South Sudan. This innovation was identified under WFP’s COVID-19 Fast Track, an innovation challenge that aimed to accelerate the sourcing, adoption, and roll-out of high-impact innovations to serve communities affected by the pandemic. The pilot will work with local retailers and wholesalers to enable the implementation of cash-based assistance, ensuring a resilient supply chain in Gorom refugee camp.

countries: Mozambique, Bangladesh and South Sudan
hours saved for people walking to markets in Mozambique
people shopping in Retail in a Box, Mozambique
people shopping in Retail in a Box, Bangladesh

Meet the team

Katrina Schall
Supply Chain Officer (Market Development)
Tinda Bex
Supply Chain Officer (Head of Market Development)
Lucero Flores Montenegro
CBT Programme Officer
Jose Shehata
Innovation Ventures Consultant
Last updated: 27/07/2023