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Self-Checkout Studied in Relation to Shopper Preferences


Market research company, Catalina, Inc., has reviewed UPC level transactions of 214 million consumer purchases in the U.S. during 2021 to estimate use of self-checkout lanes.  Catalina determined that self-checkout lanes have increased by 10 percent over the past five years and represent 40 percent of all lanes in grocery chains.  Catalina determined that 40 percent of shoppers used both self-checkout and manned checkout during the year and that only 12 percent of shoppers consistently using self-checkout.  Although shoppers used both systems in equal proportions, manned checkout accounted for 68 percent of sales compared to self-checkout with 32 percent.  Hybrid shoppers using both systems represented the highest customer value. Customers using manned checkout exclusively are predominantly seniors with household incomes under $100,000 and only a high school education.


It does not take a research company to analyze 4.5 billion UPC transactions to know that customers will only use self-checkout when they have a small basket of items, all of which are labeled with a bar code and when manned checkout lines are busy.  There is considerable variation in the efficiency of self-checkout and most pods with three or more stations require an attendant.  There are problems with non-barcoded items, including fruit and vegetables and frequently self-checkout stations are inconvenient to use when more than ten items are purchased.


Irrespective of the user friendliness of self-checkout and the availability and efficiency of manual checkout, the future probably lies in “just walk out” employing cameras and smart carts.  Many chains are testing or have installed self-checkout in order to reduce the cost of labor at the cost of customer goodwill. Until electronic systems incorporating cameras, barcodes and AI are perfected, supermarkets will rely on a hybrid mix of manned and self-checkout with consumers making the decision as to their channel of payment.