All-Self-Checkout Fresh & Easy Gets High Marks

Discussion
May 20, 2008

By George Anderson

Tesco’s test of an all-self-checkout Fresh & Easy store has apparently gone over well with consumers, according to the survey of consumers in its test store in the U.S.

The Retail Bulletin website reported that a survey of shoppers conducted by Tesco found that 90 percent were ‘satisfied or very satisfied’ with the self-checkout experience.

A separate “independent survey” (Retail Bulletin did not identify the researcher) found that 60 percent of shoppers had a “favorable” opinion of the all-self-checkout store while 27 percent said the type of checkout “doesn’t matter.” The remaining 13 percent expressed a preference for checkouts with cashiers.

Mike Webster, chief of strategy and communications officer at NCR, said that Fresh & Easy’s format lends itself to self-checkouts. All of Fresh & Easy’s products, with the exception of bananas, come packaged with a bar code, reducing customers’ need for assistance at checkouts.

Ultimately, Mr. Webster maintained, the use of self-checkouts in the Fresh & Easy format leads to better customer service in stores while helping to reduce labor costs at the same time.

“There is an opportunity to manage labor more effectively by putting the staff away from the tills and in the aisles. This is a primary driver of self-service for retailers,” he said.

Another benefit, according to Mr. Webster, is that self-checkouts have a smaller footprint than traditional manned units. This enables Fresh & Easy to free up space in the small format stores.

Discussion Questions: Are Americans ready for all-self-checkout stores? Does self-checkout lend itself to small format stores such as Fresh & Easy better than in big box locations? Does an all-self-checkout store amount to a competitive edge for Fresh & Easy?

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14 Comments on "All-Self-Checkout Fresh & Easy Gets High Marks"


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Joel Warady
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Joel Warady
14 years 4 days ago
I’m not sure that Americans are ready for a mass roll-out of all self-checkout stores. There are many people who love the opportunity to get out of the store quickly, and do so without having to interact with a cashier, whose only real task is to move items down the belt, and make certain that the bar code is lines up with the scanner. There is not a lot of up-selling, not a lot of building customer relationships, so they are an expensive addition to expensive capital equipment. That being said, there are many people who do not want the headache of scanning their own product, bagging the product, and then figuring out the payment options. Add to that the number of times that the self-checkout machines freeze, and with an all self-checkout store, you will have a lot of unhappy people. At least for the next decade until people become more accustomed, and the technology continues to improve. Smaller format stores are ideal opportunities to roll this experiment out in greater numbers. But just… Read more »
Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
14 years 4 days ago

I can see why customers like the self checkout idea. It’s fast and convenient. But I have to ask, what is driving the basket when the customer leaves? How much more revenue could you capture if your cashiers were upselling batteries and candy bars to your customers.

My observations (however unscientific) indicate that self scans actually contribute to long lines. The line can only move as fast as the customer’s scanning ability allows. A cashier who was been doing it for some time will plow through a line much faster.

Don’t get me wrong. These scanners have a place in retail, but only as an alternative to the traditional method. Margins are not getting any better so basket growth is the critical driver right now.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 4 days ago

The condition that makes self-checkout successful at Tesco’s Fresh & Easy stores (all items are packaged and have clearly marked UPC codes) does not exist at all stores so using only self-checkout at all stores would not work. The setup of the self-checkout machines and bagging process works better than the design at many other stores so that also helps the process.

There is nothing that is going to be equally successful at all stores. It only works at the store if it works for the consumers.

Lance Jungmeyer
Guest
Lance Jungmeyer
14 years 4 days ago

In a total self check-out format, there should be no concern about one or two consumers getting confused and holding up a line. The main benefit to being completely self check-out is that–no matter the hour of the day–the consumer never has to choose between 2 or 3 of the 12 checkout lanes that are actually being manned, like you would see at a conventional supermarket. Since they’re all self check-out, all the lanes are open all the time. That’s one of the “easy” parts about Fresh & Easy.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 4 days ago
I love self checkout when it is set up properly. I would assume that the retailer’s angle would include reduced labor and quicker check out times. The consumer would like the quick checkout. I have found that retailers insist on putting their intrusive loyalty cards into the equation. Yesterday, I had to tell a self checkout machine 3 times that I didn’t have their card. I finally got checked out, but the process that was supposed to be liberating and time saving produced some angst. Additionally, I noticed a near by shopper scanning one and bagging two. I didn’t say anything, because I was a little miffed at having to tell the machine for the third time that I didn’t have a loyalty card and wasn’t going to give it my phone number (could have typed in anyone’s phone number and the machine wouldn’t have known the difference). I think when the retailers come to the realization that bogging down self checkout serves no purpose that a conversion to mostly self service checkout will be… Read more »
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
14 years 4 days ago

It’s a matter of “consider the alternative.” In a perfect world, there would be no lines at checkout and the associates handling the transactions would be friendly and efficient. Reality is, self-service checkouts are a substitute for a mediocre to poor transaction experience with humans.

If my local Home Depot is any indication, the checkout experience (the last memory of the shopping trip) is the worst part of the whole deal. At the staffed lanes, there are always long lines, causing shoppers to drift over and try the self-checkouts. Judging by the looks on those shopper’s faces and the interactions between the shoppers and the self-checkout lane supervisor, it ain’t always smooth sailing.

Don’t look for self checkouts in Nordstrom, Neiman-Marcus, et al, anytime soon. They haven’t given up on a personal shopping experience, yet.

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 4 days ago
One of the psychological elements of “Easy” is “I’m in control.” Or perhaps better said, “I do not have to relinquish control to someone else.” That is in direct opposition to paired sentiment “I have someone to help me (or to rely on).” One shopper finds prepackaged meat with all available cuts out for inspection “easy”–while another finds it uncomfortable not to be able to ask the butcher to “pick a good one for me.” In the meat example above, there is some element of expertise offered by the butcher. And there is some skill involved in selecting good meat. But when we get to pure service elements like checking out–many folks opt for maintaining control themselves. In continuing to try to understand the F&E proposition, it strikes me that 100% self-scan may be a great metaphor for the type of customer F&E is trying to appeal to. The one who views “Easy” as “in control.” (Of course, you can also look at 100% prepackaged produce and meat as “having it all done for you.”… Read more »
David Schulz
Guest
David Schulz
14 years 4 days ago

I live in New York but visit stores all around the country. In many places where I’ve used self-checkout, I see elderly customers opting for the staffed checkout lanes. That demographic will be a challenge until there are no more technophobes left alive.

In NYC and many other urban locations, costs, use of space and speed of checkout–since transactions tend to include smaller numbers of items–have conditioned consumers to get all the help they can and eschew such things as self-checkout lanes.

MARK DECKARD
Guest
MARK DECKARD
14 years 4 days ago

In a 100% prepackaged environment where the idea is to get in & out fast, self checkout works when there’s an attendant available to oversee & assist several self checkout stations.

Many folks still have trouble pumping their own gas and in states like Oregon, its against the law, so it’s not for everyone, but there’s been enough exposure for most US consumers that the concept is viable.

The store becomes like a big walk-through vending machine without getting your worn dollar bill rejected or the product getting stuck on the way down….

What’s more, you don’t have checkers questioning if the 6-pack is for your teenager, as in yesterday’s posting.

Hey Tesco, ‘ya didn’t think this one through….

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 4 days ago

This research was conducted by Tesco, so naturally they are going to say anything they do is going over well with consumers. They have been on a constant press release kick of good news to cover for their failing Fresh & Easy stores. Fresh & Easy has no competitive edge.

I have the privilege of working with some excellent retailers who know that self checkouts are for companies where the consumer has a better experience with a machine than with a human. These clients know that the checkout lane is the last experience the shopper has before leaving the store. Therefore they hire friendly, efficient, hardworking, and good looking people to make sure that the shopper has a good exit experience.

How often have you gone to the checkout lane only to see the cashier and think to yourself “yuk”? These are retailers that need self checkouts.

monica miller
Guest
monica miller
14 years 4 days ago
I am a self checkout cashier. I work 40 hours a week in this position. When I first started, the self check was covered by “the kids.” The three part-time associates that covered the post during the day spent more time socializing with the other cashiers than paying attention to customers. At night, it was worse. I did some research and found out why customers do not use the self checkout. Simple issues like sanitation and the availability of paper bags were a simple fix. The toughest issue was retraining the cashiers to acknowledge the customers, ALL OF THEM, and teaching cashiers how to treat customers so that they are not intimidated by the technology. We now have mothers that use the self check because they know their children can have fun scanning the groceries. We have elderly couples that like to check every price as it scans. We also have customers that use the self check because they know they can get out faster than conventional registers. Since more customers use the self check,… Read more »
Food Drug
Guest
Food Drug
14 years 3 days ago
I shop regularly at a Tesco Fresh & Easy in Orange County, CA. The two locations I frequent were not part of the test, but from my own personal experience using the self-checkout equipment is mixed. It appears that every few weeks or so, the scanner becomes very, very slow to respond to the swipe of the bar code. My hunch is that the program has been updated, but the update has bogged down the system. Supervalu-owned Albertsons locations appear to use the same vendor for the self-checkout system that Tesco has contracted with, although the features and options that Tesco has ordered for their equipment may be different than Albertsons. Case in point. Over a month ago, Tesco began accepting AMEX. This should have nothing to do with the slowdown of scanning your actual product, but somehow the two are tied and did not matter which form of payment you actually used. Again, I’m not sure if it’s a store level training and delivery roll-out issue when changes and/or upgrades are introduced, or server… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 3 days ago

We are ready for this next step and have demonstrated this already with self-checkout gas, online check-in for airlines, and online “checkouts” for many things. The real question might be is the retail industry ready to embrace this model. This is a paradigm shattering requirement that is akin to self service stores that gathered steam during the early ’60s. Now however, we are a more educated and a more “self-service” familiar society. Let’s move forward and embrace a much needed change!

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 2 days ago

Self-checkout acceptance is similar to ATM acceptance. Initially, many folks wouldn’t use ATM’s because they were concerned about inaccuracy. And many banks installed ATM’s at only a few branches. Nowadays, no bank branch is built without an ATM, and they’re ubiquitous in many non-bank locations, too. Tellers didn’t disappear, but at many banks it seems like the machines serve more customers than the humans. Since most cashiers aren’t salespeople, why not hire some machines, too?

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