Monday, June 25, 2007

Man vs. Self-Service Checkout Station

There’s a new Lowe’s home improvement store in town, and its arrival has been celebrated with the kind of fanfare reserved for small Midwestern towns who toast national retail names with zeal.

Lowe’s opened in Lincoln, Nebraska, just a few weeks ago, and as soon as my husband and I could find a spare weekend that wasn’t filled with kids’ end-of-school activities, we drove over to check out the retailer’s new digs.

And check it out we did. Our selections in hand, we were faced with the choice of traditional checkout or a new-to-Lincoln self-checkout kiosk. My husband, who like most Lincolnites hasn’t gotten much of a chance to try his hand at self-checkout, opted against human interface and steeled himself to do battle with a machine. But it was a breeze. He easily followed the instructions, punched all the right buttons, bagged the goods, paid with a Visa debit card, handed me the receipt, and marched out, looking quite smug. Mission accomplished.

Self-checkout sets Lowe’s apart in Lincoln. Not only from its nearest competitor Home Depot—which is just a stone’s throw away—but from supermarkets, drug stores and the various retail categories that have begun to do more than dabble in self-checkout in markets other than Lincoln.

Chain Store Age talks about self-checkout in the soon-to-be-out July issue, on page 58, with an interview with Fujitsu Transaction Solutions’ director of self-checkout strategic marketing Paul Burel. According to Burel, whether or not a customer will recommend one retail operation over another is heavily dependent on the wait times at checkout. And self-checkout is going a long way toward reducing those wait times.

Something else Burel said? Statistically in both North America and Europe, more men than women are opting for self-checkout. I witnessed that statistic myself at Lowe’s in Lincoln. And I suspect my husband can’t wait to try his hand at that kiosk again.

— Katherine Field

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