HOUSTON -- Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, is installing hardware and software in its Massachusetts stores in order to start processing electronic benefits transfer transactions in July.
Hannaford is now training associates to use the systems for processing EBT transactions. However, some issues still remain, especially on the consumer side.
"We have the right hardware and software in place and if we needed to, we could start taking EBT transactions next month," said Steve Campbell, manager of financial services at retail for Hannaford.
"The problem is that the [customer] technology is undetermined in some states, whether they should swipe or insert a card or put their fingerprint on top of a terminal" at the point of sale.
Massachusetts will go live with a statewide EBT program in April, and Hannaford will be ready to process transactions by July, Campbell said, although he noted that the precise number of stores that will use the technology is not yet clear.
The rollout in Massachusetts has been divided into three phases, Campbell explained last month during a workshop at the MarkeTechnics convention here, sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute, Washington.
"It depends on what phase the stores fit into, so we don't have a number on how many stores will be implemented immediately."
Campbell spoke during a workshop session titled "EBT Implementation: Are You Ready?"
Hannaford plans to accept EBT chainwide by the end of next year. "We probably will have EBT throughout the chain by 1998. We are definitely looking to process EBT transactions chainwide -- we have to be looking that way," as the chain operates stores in other states that are also going live with EBT.
Campbell said he is watching especially closely to see how EBT programs evolve throughout the Northeast and what types of new technologies may be needed to better meet consumers' needs in Hannaford's stores outside Massachusetts.
Connecticut, for example, will probably choose to use a magnetic strip card for its EBT program, whereas Maine is leaning toward smart-card solutions in which customer information is stored on a computer chip on the card rather than on a magnetic strip.
"Last I heard, New York state was considering a client-based, fingerprint-identification device to capture personal information rather than a signature or personal identification number. If New York implements this, Hannaford will have to also look at fingerprint capture as opposed to different cards," he said.
During the session, Campbell noted that 17 states are already operating EBT programs, and that 15 more will offer programs by the end of this year.
EBT currently represents 15% of food-stamp transactions taken in the United States, and by the end of 1997 that figure will rise to 45%, he predicted.
"The train is already far from the station, and these figures tell retailers that they should be doing EBT by the end of the year, if they have not started a program already," he said.