PITTSBURGH -- Giant Eagle has agreed to partner with Symbol Technologies, Holtsville, N.Y., and IBM Global Services, Raleigh, N.C., in a pilot of a handheld, self-scanning shopping system, according to an industry source. No other details were available and executives at Giant Eagle would not comment on the test.
The Personal Shopper System uses a handheld scanner, similar in size and appearance to a telephone handset, which customers pick up when they enter a store. Shoppers present a card issued by the store to obtain the unit. A special holder is provided on the shopping card. They scan purchases while shopping and pay on the way out of the store. The system keeps a running total of their shopping expenses and enables the retailer to send messages to the shopper while they are in the store.
"The system Giant Eagle is testing is aimed at delivering on the one-to-one shopping opportunity," said an industry source close to the test. "The real power of what they will be doing is being able to communicate with the shopper in the aisle, not at the checkout where they can't change their purchasing decisions." Additionally, the retailer is able to control all messaging, said the source.
Other U.S. retailers known to be testing this technology are Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis, in two stores, Sam's Club, Bentonville, Ark., in five stores, H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, in one store, and Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Me., in one store. Internationally, the system is being used by Safeway U.K., London, in 174 stores, Tesco Stores, Cheshunt, England, in about 35 stores, and the Calgary Cooperative Association, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in two stores.
While many chains are moving forward aggressively with stationary self-checkout systems, acceptance of the handheld units has been slow. It was first tested in the U.S. in 1995. Retailers have said that the key to getting customers to use self-scanning is to convince them of its benefits. "All of this is just an interim step toward RF (radio frequency) checkout -- the Holy Grail of checkout," said one retail executive.