Self Checkout offers speed, convenience and control in delivering a real competitive advantage for retailers

Self Checkout has emerged as one of the great retail success stories in recent years. Up until recently, this progressive technology was only available to the multiples; thankfully it is now accessible for all independent retailers across supermarket and convenience formats.

The evidence points to changing consumer behaviour at the checkout as well as the more publicised consumer behaviour on the shop floor. Ever discerning shoppers are now choosing the speed, privacy and control of the easy to use self checkout over the conventional option in seeking an enhanced shopping experience. In one large supermarket in Ireland, self checkout sales accounted for 15% of overall sales within eight weeks of introduction. In other countries this figure has been as high as 30% once fully established.

The business rationale is compelling and the benefits for the retailer are huge. The return on investment is fast with a typical payback time of 30 months; the lifespan of the equipment allows for at least seven years. Self checkout enables labour optimisation and paradoxically facilitates greater customer service. One staff member, for example, would supervise a bank of four terminals, while also providing valuable training/reassurance to first time users and authorising sales of restricted items such as alcohol.

Self checkout appeals to all ages and demographics. Technologies used with the ATM and airport check-in have given people of all ages a greater confidence in using self-service technology.

It would be naive to suggest that the self checkout concept is going to fully replace operated terminals. The shopper's choice of checkout lane is determined by factors such as number of shopping items, size of queue, level of privacy desired, and time available. The practical experience on the ground shows that a combination of conventional and self checkout lanes is the optimum recipe for success.

Retailers are embracing the concept as it provides a competitive advantage and another reason to shop locally. Self checkout offers a win-win proposition for retailers and shoppers, and is set to be a defining feature of the grocery business for the foreseeable future.