At first glance, their rise seems irresistible. According to a NielsenIQ survey dating from last December, 71% of French supermarkets are equipped with automatic checkouts, compared to 57% in 2020. But this increase hides real problems observed in the United States and the United Kingdom, pioneers in the implementation of these self-service devices.
These supermarkets which are rehiring cashiers
The BBC has thus noted several examples of backtracking. Thus, the Target company now limits the use of automatic checkouts in these stores to the purchase of fewer than ten items or less.
For its part, Walmart has decided to collect several machines in different American supermarkets. Booths, a British brand, has decided to completely abandon self-service terminals. Finally, Dollar General, which was banking heavily on automation, has now declared that it plans to hire cashier staff in the future.
How can we explain such a turnaround?? Among the main problems encountered, theft is the most cited. Thus, our British colleagues cite data from retailers which highlight that companies using these technologies are exposed to loss rates more than twice the sector average. It even happens that some customers involuntarily steal from the store by failing to count a product.
While the large stores hoped to save on labor by doing without the cashiers' work, the costs would actually have increased tenfold in this area. Indeed, many employees are needed to guide customers who use these devices. In the end, companies would therefore lose out across the board.
A difficult step back ?
However, self-checkouts will not disappear from stores overnight. Indeed, even if the big brands sometimes backtrack, the cost of these devices is so high that it is very likely that they will be kept.
Quoted by the BBC, Christopher Andrews, associate professor and chair of sociology at Drew University, in the United States, underlines thus: “They spent billions to put it in stores and hope to still be able to convince the public to adhere to it”.
Clearly, nothing is decided yet, but we can in any case confirm that the automatic checkouts are far from having been up to the task expectations. And this remains good news for the employment of the people concerned.
What you need to remember:
- In the United States and the United Kingdom, some major brands regret their investments in self-checkouts
- The latter tend to increase thefts in stores
- They do not also do not save labor, as many employees are mobilized to help customers
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