Is self-checkout in danger of checking out?

Is self-checkout already on its way out?

According to Storefront Backtalk, the Albertsons LLC grocery store chain is pulling the self-checkout systems from all of its 217 stores to focus on better customer service.

SB publisher and editor Evan Shuman points out that the Albertsons news follows last month's news that Kroger is trialing a self-checkout-free store design in Texas and notes a recent IHL report indicating that Publix is "on the fence" about self-checkout.

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Duane Reade may have recently rolled out a holographic "virtual assistant" digital sign in its Manhattan flagship store, but a writer for the FINS career resource website recently noted when writing about the virtual assistant that consumer surveys indicate that customers want to talk to people in retail environments.

The FINS piece referenced a recent Consumer Reports survey published earlier this month that indicates that not being able to find a store salesperson ranked among consumers' top complaints.

Of course, this also follows the news last month that the 120-store-strong Quick Chek c-store chain in New York and New Jersey has added NCR Corp. SelfServ units to 10 more of its stores, according to Convenience Store News — and news that Wincor Nixdorf has developed a completely new, 360-degree self-service automatic checkout solution for ICA, one of the biggest retail chains in Sweden.

CSN quotes Quick Check's IT head as saying the chain remains committed to the continued implementation of self-checkout at a CIO roundtable held earlier this year at the National Association of Convenience Stores' NACStech show.

And news continues to trickle in indicating that more libraries and other government-run facilities continue to embrace self-checkout and self-service technologies.

It seems somewhat premature to start crafting an obit for self-checkout just yet; although any indicators that groceries in general — easily the largest group of self-checkout deployers out there — might be moving away from self-service should send ripples of concern throughout the industry.

What do you think? Are you seeing a shift away from self-checkout, or is it just expanding into new verticals? Let us know in the comments below.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Wilbur Tanaka
    Rather than waiting in line and having to listen to the customer and teller's drama stories, i would have liked to continue using the self-checkout. In and out in a few minutes...real customer service.
  • David Dunn
    Good Luck Albertsons...I will shop where self service is offered. The meaningless conversation with your clerks is not necessary or desired. By the way...Self Service = Customer Service.
  • Mitchell Jureckson
    Ah yes, all in the spirit of better customer service.

    My local Giant re-opened their expanded store offering hand-held scanners to customers who wanted to tally their purchases while they shopped. It looks like a resounding flop. For all of the expense the system hardly gets used.

    The logistics of using a self-checkout terminal are much more comfortable for the average customer than scanners. But they are not designed for large purchases and are easy to cheat. Self-checkouts should replace the manned (8 items or less) express lanes. That will make the transactions easier to monitor, give customers an option and add convenience to busy shoppers who just need to pick-up a couple of items.
  • Jeffrey Olszewski
    I wish my grocer offered self order for deli meats. I recently waited 20 minutes in line to order a pound of ham. While on vacation recently I used a kiosk to order my deli meat. I shopped while they fulfilled my order. I never waited even a minute.

  • Peter Bogdanoff
    Self-service, whether checkout or ordering, makes sense when the products are simply commodities. Milk is milk, a pound of ham is the same everywhere. If I don't need or want interaction with a real person, heck, I should just have it delivered to my house (eventually by a robot). But I think there are a significant number of people who want to get out and interact with real people--I bet that number is half of the population. The ticket is to accommodate both groups equally well.
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