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Facing Self-Checkout Challenges Head On

Retailers in other channels are rethinking the solution as customer backlash and shrink grow.
A customer at self-checkout

This week marks 13 years since I joined the editorial team at Convenience Store News. I have witnessed many changes in the industry since late 2010, and one thing that comes to mind is the blurring of channels. 

While convenience stores once held domain almost exclusively over the smokes-and-cokes consumer, that is no longer the case. Thus, c-store retailers are continuing to add fresh food to their inventory mix, rivaling the big-name grocery chains and quick-service restaurants, while health and beauty care opportunities in the channel put pressure on drugstores in every town across the country. 

As lines are crossed throughout the retail landscape, it is important to pay attention to what other channels do well and what they don’t do well. Case in point: self-checkout. Once only found in grocery stores, the solution has been making inroads in c-stores over the past few years, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago. 

We all know the benefits. Time-pressed consumers can get in and out faster than before, and operators can schedule employees to other customer-facing tasks as labor woes linger. So, it's interesting that several grocers and big-box retailers are taking a step back from self-checkout. As we reported in the Sept. 28 issue of Tech Watch, ShopRite is adding back designated full-service checkout lanes to its Delaware stores after facing customer backlash over its self-checkout approach.

The Wakefern banner is not alone. Reports indicate that Walmart, Costco and other chains are rethinking self-checkout. Reasons cited are customer backlash and increased shrink — whether through customer error or outright shoplifting. 

I can't imagine these problems are exclusive to other channels. C-store retailers will most likely come up against the same challenges, if they haven't already. However, it's important to find solutions to these issues without reversing course. It's not going to be easy to put the self-checkout genie back in the bottle. 

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