Checking Out on Self-Check-Out?

Self-Check has been in the news lately as reports of theft and customer dissatisfaction are leading some grocers to abandon them altogether.

According to a survey last year of 1,000 shoppers, 67% said they’d experienced a failure at the self-checkout lane. For stores, the machines are expensive to install, often break down and can lead to customers purchasing fewer items. Stores also incur higher losses and more shoplifting at self-checkouts than at traditional checkout lanes with human cashiers. While the system reduced cashier costs by as much as 66%, retailers found that self-checkout stations were not autonomous and required regular maintenance and supervision.

In the U.S., Costco, Albertsons and others, have been puling out the self-checkout machines they had installed in the mid-2000s.Dollar General recently announced they were eliminating self-checkout in stores with the highest rates of disappearing merchandise. At least six Canadian Tire locations in Ontario have also scrapped self-checkout. Meanwhile, over the past eight months, Walmart has removed all its self-checkout machines at six U.S. locations, joining several other big box chains that have ditched the machines in certain stores, including, recently, a Giant Tiger in Stratford, Ont.

Despite self-checkout’s many shortcomings for customers and store owners, the trend is only growing. Since their introduction in the 1980s, self check-out has become a fixture in most stores. In 2020, 29% of transactions at food retailers were processed through self-checkout, up from 23% the year prior.

Walmart has now piloted an exclusively self-checkout store, with mixed results. Currently, just one big box location across Canada and the U.S. has an all-self-checkout, cashier-free format — in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, a small town in Quebec.

While the problems are indeed challenging, it may simply be too late for stores to entirely turn their back on self-checkout. Expect more of a hybrid model in the future.

Check Also

It’s time for a more open and flexible approach to loyalty – How AIR MILES is answering the call.

Jason Beales By Jason Beales, Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer, AIR MILES Reward Program, for …