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The end is nigh

For years shoppers have been told that they really do like to use self-service checkouts.

But do they? Well, judging by the findings of a recent bit of research by Morrisons, consumers don’t actually like self-service checkouts. In fact, it found a whopping 96% of its customers prefer to use a staffed checkout.

Not surprisingly this resounding negative has led the supermarket to take the decision to curtail introducing any more into its stores. It will instead be introducing 1,000 10-items-or-less lanes into its superstores. Remember those, they worked quite well didn’t they?

Maybe the supermarkets simply sold us on the idea of the self-service checkout because it really benefited them. Despite their collective mantra of being customer-centric, they have on occasion forced things on the consumer that they might not necessarily have wanted.

For years the big grocers convinced people that they did not really like shopping for food and that they wanted to get out of the supermarkets as fast as possible. They wanted to process people as fast as possible in order to free up space for the next batch of consumers crossing the threshold.

Well, today it seems a large and growing number of people in the UK actually rather like buying food. They are in fact interested in it – hence the growth in the number of small producers in the market. And the uptick in cooking at home.

The supermarkets made their environments sufficiently sterile for consumers to not want to linger. But today as shoppers move their buying away from the big supermarkets – online, to convenience stores, and to the discounters – the major grocers are now looking to make their big boxes more appealing because they want us to linger longer spending money on in-store dining etcetera.

As consumer behaviour continues to change the grocers are finding a number of aspects of their businesses are no longer fit-for-purpose. For Morrisons self-service was one of these components.

Will the other supermarkets follow suit? These are certainly testing times for the providers of self-service check-outs. Could the game be over for them in food retail?

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider