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Self Checkouts – when do they work?

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Seven steps to Self Checkout heaven (or hell?)self-checkout

Most customers have probably been forced into trying them by now and love them or hate them. If you’re thinking of installing one to improve customer flow through the till area than you may want to consider the following:

1.    High flow, low value sales

In these circumstances the self checkout approach can work quite well. For example the lunch time rush hour where people are buying sandwiches and a drink. In large cities such as London it is not uncommon to see ranks of self service checkouts which are being utilised almost at full capacity from 12.00 until 14.00. The rest of the day they may be relatively unused and when installing you should consider how long it will take for a return on investment if the POS only boosts through flow for short periods of the day. You will of course have significant savings in the number of part time staff required to service customers at peak times.

2.    Credit card only

Couple this with a near field reader for low value purchases and things can really begin to speed up in the lunch hour. The down side is you will still need manned tills to handle sales to traditionalists paying cash.

3.    How many customers will walk out?

Some customers will refuse to use self service either from fear of the technology or previous bad experiences. In many cases they will dump and walk if there is a long queue at the single manned till and we all know that means you probably won’t be seeing them again, ever.

4.    Consider the demographics of your customers?

More mature customers are generally resistant to change but often spend proportionally more than their younger counterparts. If you are sited near a retirement village automation may not be the best way forward

5.    Age restricted goods

Alcohol and tobacco are the main items to consider. In the case of alcohol self checkout is possible in most countries but you will need staff on hand to quickly authorise the customer as being old enough to buy the product. As self checkout is being promoted as fast and easy any delay is annoying not just for the customer at the checkout but also those queuing behind.

Tobacco is more complicated as automatic cigarette machines are still commonly available in many countries but in others where restrictions are tighter and sales are either dark (the buyer is protected from seeing the product, for example in Ireland) or plain packaged (being introduced in Australia) the restrictions probably mean a manned tobacco kiosk will always be required.

6.    Are your bar codes clear?

Probably the biggest crime! If the scanner can’t read the bar code it’s unlikely the customer will be able to type the code in instead. This will lead to two problems:

  • They reject the item and you lose the sale of the item
  • It happens more than once and they dump the complete shop

The only way round this is to have enough staff available to help – but then reducing staffing was the reason for installing the self checkout in the first place.

7.    And the most frustrating problem….

The customer has managed to scan in twenty items with some difficulty. A member of staff has had to authorise a bottle of wine and the bar code wouldn’t read on a packet of meat. They come to pay and either the note reader or credit card reader refuses to work. Do you think they will come back tomorrow?

Summary

Working well in the right environment self checkouts will boost sales and reduce staffing costs. Get them wrong and you risk losing customers permanently. What you think, any other suggestions?

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Author: retailaccounting

CounterBooks is an online retail accounting management suite which is used by retailers across the world.

One thought on “Self Checkouts – when do they work?

  1. The accountant evaluates records drawn up by the bookkeeper and shows the results of this investigation as losses and gains, leakages, economies, or changes in value, so as to reveal the progress or failures of the business and also its future limitations and possibilities

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