Is the fixed till on borrowed time?

Exactly how much longer have fixed till systems got as part of the retail landscape?

The till of the future?

The rise of the tablet device with payment functionality is beginning to some put pressure on the presence of the fixed Point-of-Sale (PoS). Consider the roll-out of iPads by the likes of Aurora Fashions. In its refitted stores the number of such devices is now outnumbering fixed till points.

It’s not that hard to see on the horizon that we’ll have a time when there will be little reason to bother with fixed tills in many categories within the retail industry. There are many merchants experimenting with tablets (mainly iPads at this point) including House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer, along with the mobile phone retailers and the likes of McDonald’s.

It’s a similar story in the US where JC Penney (run by the former head of retail at Apple, Ron Johnson) has a plan to eliminate the traditional checkout by 2013. He is busy installing advanced wi-fi, mobile checkouts, and is switching over to tags that utilise radio frequency so there will no longer be a need to scan barcodes.

Such seismic change at the checkout comes at an interesting time because that other revolutionary aspect in the world of tills – self-service PoS – has been under a bit of pressure in some quarters. The argument for the use of self-service has been a combination of faster throughput of customers and its need for much less of a footprint in-store than that required by tills with checkout staff.

Ikea US: Taking out self-service 

Ikea is one of a number of retailers that are making a move against self-service tills. Its argument is that, in its US stores at least, they are proving slower to get customers through, and at busy times they tend to need a member of staff administering each one (which sort of negates their value).

Since the issue of shortage of space in-store does not come into play for Ikea then it has clearly asked itself – what is the value of self-service? And it is not alone as Kroger and Albertsons have also been removing them from their stores across the pond.

Admittedly there are numerous other retailers who find the technology beneficial but for those merchants where in-store space is very much at a premium then tablets might be a better answer as they need pretty much no footprint. It seems like it might be coming down to a toss-up between tablets and self-service tills.

But with customer service coming increasingly to the fore then it could be argued that tablet devices provide a much better in-store engagement experience for customers and have the capability for delivering the much-vaunted personalised multi-channel proposition.

At this point in the cycle with tablet releases aplenty, mobile payments, NFC as well as contact-less technologies all gaining traction then retailers’ commitment to go with self-service tills could be coming under question for some operators – especially in a world where even the long-term existence of the fixed till itself is being put into doubt.