DALLAS -- Last week Albertsons announced that it has completed the rollout of a portable self-checkout system to its 103 stores in this market, the first major implementation of this application in the United States.
The application, called the Portable Shopping System, from Symbol Technologies, Holtsville, N.Y., includes a handheld scanning device used by customers as they shop the store to scan products and create a running tally of their purchases (cancelling selections if they change their mind). If they bag their purchases as they shop, consumers need only pay at a regular or self-checkout lane to complete their shopping trip.
Symbol's Portable Shopping System, which has met with considerable success in Europe at retailers like Safeway U.K., Waitrose, Albert Heijn and Delhaize, was tested for years in the United States by several chains (such as Hannaford Bros. and H.E. Butt Grocery) without being adopted until the Dallas market rollout by Albertsons, Boise, Idaho. Albertsons had tested the system, which it calls Shop 'n Scan, at six of its Jewel-Osco stores in the Chicago area over the past year, and piloted it in Dallas before committing to the rollout. The rollout comes as fixed self-checkout lanes have gained wide popularity in the United States.
In assessing the Jewel-Osco test last year, Bob Dunst, Albertsons' chief information officer, told SN, "The customer response has been excellent, basket sizes have increased, and shrinkage actually has declined." He said a market rollout would be based on verifying the system's "merchandising value and return-on-investment potential."
In a promotional piece aimed at consumers in the Dallas market, Albertsons touted the system's ability to help shoppers "spend less time waiting in line." Shoppers interviewed recently by the Dallas Morning News said they liked the ability to track their spending as they shop.
"The self-checkout part of the system takes care of one of the largest consumer complaints of having to wait in line to check out," wrote Barry Kotek, managing partner, Retail Systems Consulting, Naples, Fla., in its In-Store newsletter. "There is always a concern of shrinkage with self-checkout. But with this system, the consumer agrees to a random audit, which helps prevent theft."
In addition to scanning and tallying purchases, the RF (radio frequency)-based scanners can display offers available only to users of the device. The scanners also can notify shoppers when prescriptions or film orders are ready for pickup.
The scanning devices are available only to Preferred Card loyalty shoppers, who scan their card at a display rack in the store to obtain a scanner, and return it there at the end of the trip. Albertsons has been introducing a loyalty card program over the past few years in various markets, Dallas being one of the first to get it.
In the original test of the system, loyalty card shoppers received targeted offers via the scanners based on their individual shopping history, though that is not happening in the Dallas market, said Jennifer Vroman, spokeswoman for Albertsons.
Vroman said shoppers can scan virtually every item in the store with the portable scanners, including produce items, for which new department scales are able to generate bar-code labels. The only exceptions are products like beer, wine and cigarettes.
At the end of the shopping trip, shoppers scan an "end-of-trip" bar code at the checkout and their card, which stops the transaction and allows them to pay.