The retail industry has been witnessing a significant shift towards self-checkout systems, as stores like Kohl’s consolidate their checkout areas to create a more efficient and streamlined shopping experience. This trend has been driven by the need to adapt to changing consumer preferences, reduce labor costs, and improve operational efficiency.
While, self-checkout systems have been around since the late 1980s, first starting in supermarkets and gradually spreading to big-box chains, drug stores, and now discount clothing and department stores. One significant benefit of implementing self-checkout kiosks is the efficient use of store floor space, which can be repurposed for merchandising. Traditional cashier lanes occupy a considerable amount of space in retail stores. In contrast, self-checkout kiosks have smaller footprints, allowing businesses to fit more checkout stations into a limited area.
As a result, retailers can reclaim valuable floor space that was previously occupied by bulky cashier counters and utilize it for displaying additional merchandise, potentially boosting sales revenue. Retailers such as Kohl’s, H&M, Bed Bath & Beyond, Zara, Uniqlo, and Primark have started implementing self-checkout machines in their stores, responding to customer demand for faster and more convenient shopping experiences.
The adoption of self-checkout systems has led to a reduction in the need for human cashiers, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 10% decline in cashier jobs over the next decade. This shift has been further accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, as millions of customers turned to self-checkout to minimize close interactions with workers and other shoppers.
“The rise of self-checkout systems is reshaping the retail landscape, as stores consolidate their checkout areas to improve efficiency and cater to evolving customer preferences. While this trend comes with its own set of challenges, retailers are investing in advanced technologies and reevaluating store formats to ensure a seamless and convenient shopping experience for customers” said Retail Expert, Jeanel Alvarado.
However, the implementation of self-checkout systems comes with its own set of challenges, including potential customer frustration and increased shoplifting risks. Some of the negative effects of self-checkout at retailers include increased risk of theft, high upfront costs, unhappy customers, equipment malfunctions, dehumanizing the store experience, and potential layoff backlash.
Retailers with a high percentage of transactions going through self-checkout can expect losses to be 31% higher due to theft. Additionally, installing self-service systems can cost several times more than standard cashier lanes. Customers may also feel frustrated with self-checkout machines due to difficulty in entering goods, frequent overrides, and lack of human interaction. In fact, 43% of surveyed customers still wanted an attendant to be available for assistance.
Equipment malfunctions can cause delays and further dissatisfaction among customers. Despite these drawbacks, self-checkout offers some benefits such as reduced labor costs, quicker checkout, and efficient use of space. One cashier can oversee multiple self-checkout transactions, allowing stores to serve more customers during busy times. Moreover, many customers, particularly millennials, appreciate the time-saving aspect of self-checkout.
To address these issues, some retailers have invested in advanced technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) security tags and self-checkout machines that automatically recognize items, eliminating the need for customers to scan products or remove security tags manually.
As retailers continue to consolidate their checkout areas and embrace self-checkout systems, they are also reevaluating their store formats to support third-party delivery services and enhance the overall customer experience. This includes creating “speed zones” near the front of the store, stocking popular items for faster pick-up, and adapting store layouts to better support omnichannel sales.