Are Self Checkout Lanes Checking Out?
With IKEA’s announcement that the company is removing self checkout lanes from all it’s U.S. stores, the debate as to the future of this decade old technology is raised again. There are pros and cons of its usefulness and effectiveness, and in many cases this depends on the retailer or the industry.
For instance, pay-at-the pump self checkout in the convenience store industry has become not only a mainstay but a customer expectation. It’s more of an inconvenience for customers to have to go inside the store to pay for fuel. Self checkout is a natural fit in this industry.
Money spent on products bought through self checkout lanes is projected to increase each year over the next two years and some retailers such as Walmart and CVS are sticking with self checkout and some are actually adding more lanes to stores in an effort to cut costs. By the end of the year, 300 of the over 600 Sam’s Club locations will have self checkout lanes.
However, at least two grocery chains, Albertson’s LLC and Big Y, dropped self checkout lanes from all stores. In IKEA’s case, the self checkout required too much oversight and staff intervention time and resulted in customer complaints because of long and slow moving lines. IKEA spokesman told the Tampa Tribune, “It wasn’t as efficient as we originally hoped.”
Self checkout gives customers the feeling that they are saving time, which in most instances is actually an illusion. Also, the convenience of the do-it –yourself can backfire when there is an error either on the machine or users end.
Theft is a concern as well, although it’s not necessarily the overwhelming reason that drives the decision to remove the machines. However, it’s important to note that theft is up to five times higher with self checkout compared to cashier stations, according to Malay Kundu, founder of Stoplift Checkout Vision Systems.
Currently there are under 15 companies with 25 or more stores that plan to either implement new or replace existing self checkout hardware in the next 12 months, according to Chain Store Guide’s Database of Retail Technology.
So as questions arise as to the future of self checkout, the up and coming mobile technology and mobile checkouts will continue to make headlines, but similar to self checkout technology, the appeal, usefulness, and ultimately the success of mobile technology will heavily depend on the industry as well as the specific retailers within those industries.