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Self-Checkout Faces Cloudy Future

Retailers Weigh Pros, Cons of Automation

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Media reports last week suggested that Walmart may eliminate self-checkouts due to issues like theft and customer dissatisfaction​​. Walmart says their approach to self-checkout is evolving.

Overall, Walmart's strategy appears to be a mix of phasing out certain self-checkout lanes in favor of more traditional, staffed checkouts to improve customer service and reduce theft, while also embracing new technologies and store designs to meet the evolving needs of its shoppers, according to widely circulated media reports.

These developments reflect a broader trend among retailers to find a balance between leveraging technology for convenience and mitigating the associated risks, such as increased theft and the impersonal nature of self-checkout.

A 2022 industry report highlighted that around 23% of store losses were attributed to theft and customer error at self-checkout stations. Major retailers, while unlikely to completely reverse their stance on self-checkout, are investing in strategies to better manage these losses. This includes enhancing labor resources to ensure customers remain accurate and honest during self-checkout.

Walmart has responded by implementing measures like receipt checks to combat theft, although this has led to mixed reactions from customers​​.

A report from CNN indicates that Costco and other supermarket chains are also rethinking checkout options following higher merchandise losses from customer errors and intentional shoplifting. Costco, acknowledging an increase in shrink due to self-checkout, plans to staff these areas more heavily to prevent misuse by non-members​​.

Wegmans ended a mobile app program that facilitated scan-and-pay shopping due to these concerns. Walmart discontinued its similar mobile 'scan-and-go' service in 2018 due to unacceptable losses​​.

Target is testing a policy that mandates customers with 10 items or less to use self-checkout, whereas those with more items are directed to full-service lanes. London Drugs is expanding self-checkouts in specific locations, such as downtown stores or near transit hubs, catering to customers who seek quick transactions for a few items.

Meanwhile, Walmart Canada maintains that self-checkouts are available at all stores, with the implementation strategy being tailored based on the specific needs of each store and its customers​​.

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