CALGARY, Alberta -- The Calgary Cooperative Association, a 15-unit retailer here, launched a test of portable self-scanning technology at its Shawnessy, Alberta, store Oct. 15. The pilot program, which places 64 handheld self-scanning units at the store, will run three to four months.
"We believe this technology will offer our customers a fast, easy and convenient shopping option," said Ian Routledge, Calgary Co-op's project leader, in a statement. "It will reduce the time customers spend in checkout lanes. The system also allows customers to know exactly how much they're spending as they shop."
Customers use the self-scanning devices during their shopping trip, pressing the "plus" sign to add an item, the "minus" sign to delete one and the "equal" sign to total their order. Each unit is connected to the store's point-of-sale system via radio frequency technology, to ensure the scanners provide the most current prices, according to a source familiar with the situation.
When customers return the scanner to its rack, it prints a ticket indicating their total purchase. Customers take this to an express checkout lane to pay for their purchases, according to the source.
"Shawnessy is a very busy store, and we were maxing out in terms of the number of customers, but there was no room for additional checkout lanes," said Darlene Crowell, communications adviser at Calgary Co-op. "We see this as a way to get more people through the checkout."
Initial interest in the program has been strong, with 1,000 customers signing up in the first five days, said Crowell.
"The proof will be if the customers come back and use it again, or whether the interest is just due to the novelty factor," she added. The chain will expand the self-scanning technology to other stores if the pilot's results warrant it, she added.
"It would be another three to four months after the pilot is completed to get the technology into another store," said Crowell. "It's not for all our stores, only those that do a very high volume of business -- perhaps seven to 10 of our stores."
Portable self-scanning technology is widely used by Safeway U.K., London, and is growing slowly in North America. Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, began a test of the handheld units in July. Sam's Wholesale Club, a division of Wal-Mart stores, Bentonville, Ark., uses the technology in two of its stores. Kroger Co., Cincinnati, piloted the portable scanning units in its Nashville KMA in February.