shopping cart with groceries

Why Self-Checkout Lines Could Be Here To Stay

Adopting Automation

For anyone who’s ever struggled at a self-checkout line, the common issues sound familiar. Items like produce are hard to scan, there’s a tendency to double scan, and everything could go splat in the parking lot if you forget to double bag. Still, with all of those challenges, grocery stores are pushing for more self-checkout.

In comparison to pre-pandemic times, self-checkout is now twice as widespread. Last year, 30% of all transactions were self-scanned, per a report from FMI concerning the food industry. The group looked at 38,000 retail stores and found 96% had self-checkout machines.

Limited Options

FMI’s report suggests grocers face limited options, and are more or less being forced to use self-checkout more often. In 2021, grocery stores experienced a 48% turnover rate for employees, which was slightly below 2020’s record. The sector is experiencing a broad labor shortage that isn’t expected to end anytime soon.

Looking at the numbers behind the machines themselves can also shed light on the situation. It costs between $14,000 to $40,000 to purchase and install the machines. At that price, they quickly pay for themselves, as one or two workers can oversee five to ten machines, rather than needing a dozen workers for the same number of checkout lanes.

Better Get Used To It

If self-checkout machines are unpopular with customers, it may have something to do with the less-than-ideal technology. Raydiant conducted a survey last year in which two-thirds of respondents said they’d experienced machine failure in a self-checkout lane. Still, most companies are plowing through with plans to bring more online.

Target (TGT) touts the machines as a fast and autonomous alternative to cashiers. Walmart (WMT), Kroger (KR), Albertsons (ACI), and Dollar General (DG) all have pilot programs testing stores that only offer self-checkout. As technology expands and labor costs rise, automation stands to become that much more common.

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James Flippin ABOUT James Flippin James Flippin is the son of a financial advisor who grew up hearing and learning about bond yields, interest rates, the stock market, and the ins and outs of Wall Street. After stints as a licensing and business broker for Marcus and Millichap in New York City, James moved into broadcasting and became a reporter and anchor. He covered crime, politics, finance, and tech at NBC News Radio while working part-time as a producer for SiriusXM. James graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics. He's also an accomplished podcaster with over 10-years of experience.

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