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Is Self-Checkout on the Decline? Understanding the Challenges and Future of Automated Retail

WARMINSTER, PA, May 15, 2024 –

When you’re ready to check out at a grocery store or any retail establishment, the decision between self-service checkout and cashier-assisted lanes isn’t always straightforward. While self-checkouts have become a familiar feature in modern retail settings, there’s a growing trend of both customers and retailers stepping back from this option. Several factors are driving this shift. Customers often find themselves frustrated by long lines and insufficient staffing at self-checkout stations. Meanwhile, retailers have observed a noticeable increase in shoplifting incidents attributed to these self-service lanes. With these growing frustrations and concerns, some larger retailers have gone as far as to remove self-checkout from certain locations.

The Problem with Self-Checkout

Many retailers are grappling with significant challenges, including increased theft rates, frustratingly long lines that can deter shoppers during peak hours, and the high costs associated with expanding these systems to more lanes

Long Lines

No one enjoys waiting in long lines, and self-service checkouts are no exception. It’s a common sight: a queue of customers at self-service checkout, while traditional lanes remain largely underused, hosting only one or two customers. This imbalance often leads to customer complaints and a call for better solutions.

One reason for these delays is the frequent need for manual input at self-checkout lanes, which can result in customer errors. For example, purchasing produce at grocery stores often requires manually entering a code. If the customer accidentally inputs the wrong code, an employee can be required to resolve the error. Additionally, issues such as alcohol purchases or issues with membership cards necessitate employee assistance to verify customers’ ages or to resolve problems. However, with typically just one employee overseeing more than ten self-checkout stations, their availability becomes a bottleneck, significantly slowing down the process.

In response to these challenges, retailers are taking proactive steps to improve the self-service checkout experience. One such strategy limits the use of self-checkout terminals to customers with ten items or fewer. This policy, currently being tested in select stores, aims to streamline the process and reduce wait times, potentially revolutionizing the way we shop. Another tactic, although less effective, is implementing a card-only policy at self-checkout lanes. This approach not only potentially shortens transaction times but also simplifies cash management for employees, who no longer need to handle cash balances at these stations, paving the way for a more efficient and convenient shopping experience.

Theft

The convenience of self-checkout comes with a significant challenge for retailers: theft. It’s an open secret that the ease of bypassing payment at self-checkouts has crossed the minds of many shoppers. Even honest customers might inadvertently leave the store with unpaid items in their carts, only realizing the oversight after they’ve left. Given these accidental occurrences, it’s hardly surprising that self-checkouts are a tempting opportunity for those inclined to steal.

In response to the rampant issue of intentional shoplifting, some retailers are re-evaluating the viability of self-checkout machines. Earlier this past year, for instance, a major retail chain took the drastic step of removing self-checkout stations in specific store locations to curb theft. Additionally, many stores, including some branches of another prominent retailer, have implemented receipt checks at exits to ensure that the items customers are carrying out have been paid for. This retailer has also taken proactive measures by securing frequently shoplifted items, like makeup, and imposing age restrictions in stores with high theft rates.

These actions highlight a growing debate among retailers about the future of self-checkouts. As shoplifting continues to be a significant problem, the industry is forced to weigh the benefits of customer convenience against the risks and losses associated with theft.

High Cost of Conversion

Another challenge retailers face with self-checkout machines is the inefficient use of space once occupied by traditional checkout stations. In many large retail stores, shoppers encounter two self-checkout areas at opposite ends, surrounded by a row of about twenty traditional checkout stations that are mostly closed. This layout allows a single employee to manage multiple self-service kiosks, which is particularly advantageous when labor is scarce. However, the ideal solution to maximize retail space and reduce wait times would involve replacing the unmanned checkout lanes with more self-checkout lanes. Unfortunately, this solution comes with significant costs and is not widely implemented to maximize cost savings.

As a result, customers often find themselves navigating through a seemingly endless row of self- checkout machine lanes with zero human cashiers. They are left with the choice of enduring long lines at the self-checkout or opting for one of the few manned stations requiring waiting behind other customers. This underutilization of space and resources highlights the need for a more strategic approach to checkout area design, balancing cost, convenience, and customer experience.

Enhancing Self-Checkout Efficiency and Security with Havis Solutions

Efficiency

Long lines at self-service checkout lanes are a common frustration for customers, and at Havis, we’re committed to maximizing the efficiency of the self-checkout process. Our ergonomic mounts are designed to streamline the operation of checkout stations, making them as user-friendly as possible for all customers. By positioning all technology at the optimal height and keeping the area free from cables and clutter, customers can effortlessly navigate the self-checkout process without the need to hunt for card slots or receipt printers. Moreover, our mounts provide a secure connection for all devices, ensuring that technical issues do not cause unnecessary delays, thus enhancing the overall customer experience at self-checkouts.

Security

Security is another critical aspect of self-checkout systems where Havis excels. With enhanced surveillance mounting systems, retailers can deter theft and monitor self-checkout areas more effectively. These mounts are strategically designed to provide comprehensive coverage, ensuring that all activities at the self-checkout aisles are visible and recorded. By implementing these advanced solutions, retailers can optimize the efficiency of their self-checkout systems and significantly enhance their security, making the shopping experience safer and more pleasant for everyone involved.

Affordability

Havis stands out as a cost-effective and robust choice when considering the long-term value and versatility of mounting solutions for self-checkout counters. With Havis, you’re not just investing in ergonomic and aesthetic solutions that enhance the checkout experience; you’re also investing in durable hardware built to last. Havis’ retail checkout mounting solutions offer a unique advantage: their flexibility allows the same mounting setup to be used in self-checkout and traditional, employee-operated checkout configurations. This dual-functionality maximizes your investment and simplifies transitions between different checkout modes as needed, accommodating varying customer preferences and store traffic patterns. Additionally, the durability of Havis products ensures that these solutions withstand the rigors of busy retail environments, reducing the need for frequent replacements and thus lowering the total cost of ownership over time. By choosing Havis, retailers can ensure a more streamlined, adaptable, and cost-effective checkout process, making it a smart choice for modern retail operations.

The Future of Self-Checkout

The popularity of self-checkout has surged in recent years, with a 2020 survey revealing that 73% of consumers prefer using these systems over the traditional, manned alternative. As these numbers continue to climb, it’s clear that self-checkout is not just a passing trend but a significant shift in how consumers interact with retail and hospitality environments. This growing preference necessitates ongoing adjustments and enhancements by retailers to keep pace with evolving customer expectations and demands.

In response to these changes in retailers’ self-checkout strategies, Havis is at the forefront, providing innovative and durable mounting solutions tailored to the needs of modern retail and hospitality businesses. Havis’s commitment to quality ensures that products meet and exceed the rigorous demands of daily use in high-traffic environments. By focusing on creating rugged, reliable solutions, Havis helps retailers enhance the efficiency and user-friendliness of their self-checkout systems. This improves the customer experience and drives operational efficiency, assisting businesses to adapt to the increasing preference for self-service options.

Looking ahead and despite the reports of some retailers taking a step back, the future of self-checkout appears promising and poised for further growth. The key to self-checkout success is finding solutions that work. As technology evolves, Havis is dedicated to staying ahead of the curve, ensuring that our mounting solutions seamlessly integrate with the latest advancements in self-checkout technology. This commitment to innovation and adaptability makes Havis a key partner for retailers aiming to thrive in a rapidly changing marketplace, where meeting and exceeding consumer expectations is paramount to success.

 

As we consider the future of retail, self-checkout systems stand at a crossroads. Despite their growing popularity and clear benefits regarding efficiency and customer autonomy, these systems are not without their challenges. Issues like long wait times, increased theft, and high conversion costs are prompting retailers to re-evaluate the role and implementation of self-service technologies. However, innovations and improvements by companies like Havis Inc. address these challenges head-on, ensuring that self-checkout remains a viable and valuable option for modern retailers.

Havis’s advanced mounting solutions are pivotal in this evolution of self-checkout strategies. By enhancing the efficiency and security of self-checkout stations, Havis is helping retailers optimize their customer experience and operations. Ergonomic designs ensure ease of use and reduce transaction times, robust security mounts deter theft and safeguard equipment, and the dual-use functionality of Havis systems offers a cost-effective solution that maximizes retail space. These contributions are crucial as businesses strive to meet today’s consumers’ high standards and diverse needs.

In conclusion, while self-checkout systems may face certain obstacles, their future in retail is far from declining. With ongoing technological advancements and strategic improvements from industry leaders like Havis, self-checkout systems are set to become even more integrated into our day-to-day shopping experiences. As these solutions evolve to be more efficient, secure, and customer-friendly, we can expect them to continue shaping the future of retail, adapting to and meeting the ever-changing demands of consumers and businesses alike.

Visit www.havis.com to learn more about our industry-leading mounting solutions for retail and hospitality.

ABOUT HAVIS

Havis, Inc. is a privately held, ISO 9001-certified company that is the leader in providing robust and reliable end-to-end technology mounting and mobility solutions in demanding environments. The Havis legacy dates back over 80 years as a trusted designer and manufacturer of critical equipment that ensures critical technology is accessible, secure and reliable.

Havis’s engineering and manufacturing teams are committed to consistently researching and developing unique products and solutions for a range of industries worldwide. With headquarters in Warminster, PA, and additional locations in Plymouth, MI, Burnsville, MN, and in the UK, Havis currently employs more than 400 team members. For more information on Havis, please call 1.800.524.9900 or visit http://www.havis.com.