GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Meijer Inc. here will test eight, and perhaps up to 12, self-checkout stations in one hypermarket, in the largest single-store installation in the country.
The chain, which has some stores that exceed 200,000 square feet and include more than 27 conventional checkout lanes, decided to evaluate the impact of more stations as a precursor to a wider rollout next year, according to a Meijer executive.
The self-checkout stations, which enable shoppers to scan their items, pay for merchandise and bag their purchases without cashier assistance, is being tested in two stores -- one here and another in Portage, Mich. A third store will be equipped with the technology later this year and up to 50 more stores could be offering the self-service option next year, according to the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We believe self-scanning units are another tool in the customer service arsenal," the Meijer source said. He said customer service would be improved because Meijer will be able to shift some labor away from cashier duty to more customer-oriented tasks.
"We're not certain it will save labor, but it will allow us to reallocate our labor in what we hope will be a more guest-friendly way," he added.
Although the self-checkout units are equipped with advanced features, such as electronic payment technology that accepts credit cards and cash and dispenses change, there usually are no gains in checkstand efficiency with such automation. In fact, orders processed on the units take longer than comparable orders processed by a cashier.
Ironically, customers who use self-checkout come away with the perception that it is faster, not slower, than conventional checkout, primarily because they are occupied with the task, the Meijer executive said.
"They aren't as fast as regular cashiers would be, but customers feel like they are getting through the line faster because they have total control of the situation," the source said.
The self-scanning units are configured as a cluster of four stations at all retailers using the system today, including Meijer. However, the hypermarket plans to install a second set of four stations -- and perhaps as many as three sets -- in one store for a total of up to 12 self-checkout stations.
"We'll probably try two or maybe even three quads to get a feel for what it does in terms of our front-end service," the Meijer source said. He did not indicate when that installation was scheduled.
Kroger Co., Cincinnati, is testing the same self-checkout system in its King Soopers, Denver; Central KMA and Louisville, Ky., divisions of Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., are testing the same self-checkout systems, which were developed by Optimal Robotics, Montreal, and manufactured by PSC, Webster, N.Y. However, those chains and others have deployed only four stations in any one store. Other retailers testing another stationary self-checkout are Balls Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan.; Costco Cos., a division of Costco Wholesale, Issaquah, Wash., and Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla.