As more retailers add self-serve checkout lanes, Albertsons and Vons supermarkets in Southern California are sticking to old-school service.
The parent company of Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions said it is eliminating self-checkout lanes at 96 of its 352 stores in Southern California to give better one-on-one service to shoppers.
“Our focus is on providing full service and attention to our customers, which includes a friendly checker to serve them,” said Carlos Illingworth, a local spokesman for the Idaho-based Albertsons Cos.
Roughly 31 Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions stores “in areas with high demand, such as college and beach communities and other areas with high foot traffic,” will keep self-checkout registers, he added. The company declined to provide locations of the stores keeping the lanes.
On Tuesday, a corporate representative said each division is evaluating self-checkouts as stores are remodeled.
“In areas where we have a more tech-savvy customer base, like Northern California, there are more stores that have them. In stores where the self-checkouts aren’t as popular, a division might put in more express lanes,” spokeswoman Christine Wilcox said.
The removal of self-serve areas is expected to be complete by February. Chain representatives said stores will add more express lanes ahead of any backlash from shoppers who don’t want to wait in long lines with one or two items.
Illingworth said stores also are experimenting with corralling shoppers into one line that feeds into multiple registers.
One of the benefits of self-checkout is its ability to let shoppers quickly buy a small basket of groceries, studies show. In a 2014 report by Food Marketing Institute, the firm said 40 percent of U.S. shoppers ranked self-checkout as somewhat important or very important when selecting a primary grocery store.
In Orange County, Ralphs and Wal-Mart have offered self-service lanes for years. A 24-hour Wal-Mart in Orange recently expanded its self-service lanes. Target is also adding more self-checkout lanes across the country. Of its 1,802 stores, roughly 1,200 offer self-checkout lanes, including 28 of 30 stores in Orange County, the company said.
At Ralphs, 150 of the chain’s 194 stores in Southern California have self-checkout. Roughly 30 percent of the brand’s shoppers take advantage of the system, the company said.
West Coast grocery analyst Craig Rosenblum said stores “get very little” credit when it comes to good service at the checkout lane. “If you want to be known for service, it is going to take a lot more than getting rid of self-service.
“Service is about providing shoppers (options for) the way they want to shop,” said Rosenblum, senior director at retail consulting firm Willard Bishop.
Some retailers are not sold on self-checkout. Stater Bros., Costco and Trader Joe’s don’t offer it. A few years ago, Costco experimented with self-checkout but scrapped the test due to “shrinkage,” or inventory loss.
Still, self-service is growing beyond supermarkets as consumers demand more convenience. Reduced labor costs are another corporate incentive.
Source: OC Register