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Special report: Self checkouts taking greater hold in UK

Self checkouts are set for a renaissance in the UK as the retail sector re-assesses their value and the discounters begin trialling the technology for the first time. By Glynn Davis in Germany


Special report: Self checkouts taking greater hold in UK

Having been around for many years, self checkouts are enjoying a new lease of life with Lidl this week beginning a trial in the UK with Aldi undertaking discussions over their potential introduction, and Tesco is installing a new batch of devices after putting the original roll-out on hold some years ago. 

Speaking at Wincor World in Germany this week Martin Smethurst, managing director of retail in the UK and Ireland for Wincor Nixdorf, suggested there was an overall resurgence in interest for such in-store technologies - including also kiosks. He cited customers no longer fearing them, the increased acceptance of transacting online, and the improvement in technology interfaces in recent years.

With self service specifically, he says retailers have an ongoing desire to reduce waiting times for their customers and to also simplify their businesses. Both these components are making self service attractive to the discounters.
"Everybody else is doing it, it can reduce costs, and it gives customers more choice," says Smethurst, adding that for the discounters self service is a particularly good fit because their average basket size is typically between 10 and 20 items.

Interestingly Lidl has selected the UK for its trial rather than its home market of Germany as global self service adoption has been very much driven by the UK market. One in every 13 checkouts in the UK are self service compared with only one in every 33 in France, one in every 20 in the US and a mere one in every 178 in Germany.
This growing acceptance of self service by UK shoppers has possibly been a prompt for Tesco to re-trial the technology in a batch of its stores having curtailed its initial implementation when it reached around 30 outlets four or five years ago.

At Wincor World the technology firm's latest 360 degree self checkout - having a three-times faster checkout than if handled by a cashier was - being demonstrated. Asda ran a trial in two of its stores, which completed in July, and it is currently evaluating the exercise. Smethurst revealed that another major UK grocer would also be trialling the device shortly.

There has also been renewed interest in self scanning devices by retailers, with Waitrose having them available as an option in all its stores. A major benefit is their ability to convert users into the retailer's most loyal customers.

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