Upmarket grocer Waitrose is to roll out self-service checkouts at its stores across the UK, it has emerged.
Following a trial of self-service solutions across a number of its stores, the supermarket has implemented the technology across all branches as it seeks to improve in-store technological innovations.
Last month, the retailer revealed to Retail Gazette that it is also exploring the possibility of introducing iPads in-store and providing the device for delivery drivers to aid home shopping drop-offs .
During the self-service checkout trials, staff and customers were educated about using the new technology and it was found that at least 20 per cent of transactions at these stores are now channelled through the self-checkout terminals, with that figure significantly higher in some city-centre locations.
Graham Heald, Director of Retail Services at Waitrose, claimed that the checkouts, provided by self-service solutions company Wincor Nixdorf, had significantly reduced queue times and allowed staff to focus on offering quality service.
“The results so far have been very encouraging and we are excited at the prospect of delivering this service to more of our customers,” he commented.
“Excellent customer service is central to Waitrose’s success and transaction speed is a vital part of that, as is choice in the way customers wish to transact.
“This technology gives people an alternative payment option which is fast, easy-to-use and means their in-store journey from entry to checkout is a smooth one.”
Multichannel payment options have become a strong focus for the grocer in recent times, as it was one of the first retailers to make handheld scanners available to customers, allowing them to pay at the ‘Quick Check’ tills.
New technologies such as contactless payments are now also being explored as the chain continues to witness sales and revenue growth in a difficult market.
Cindy Etsell, Head of Retail at business analytics software firm SAS, agrees that the latest development is good news for the retailer.
“Making the move to self-service tills is definitely a positive thing for Waitrose if it wants to be competitive,” she told Retail Gazette.
“Waitrose will need to make sure that the self-service tills are implemented and managed properly, offering support and assistance to customers when needed.
“If this is done correctly, then this extra service will positively impact customer service and strengthen loyalty.”
Last week, Waitrose saw a 9.7 per cent year-on-year increase in sales as the Indian summer encouraged consumers to purchase summer items such as sun cream, sales of which were up 190 per cent compared to the same period in 2010.
In an increasingly competitive market, the chain is looking to strengthen its position in relation to digital platforms and Heald believes that this latest development emphasises the company’s focus on innovations to suit its customers.
“Our customers expect the highest standards and this is true whether they are talking to a Waitrose Partner or using a self-service checkout. We therefore looked closely at the technology and chose the solution that would deliver the standard of service that we and our customers demand,” he said.
Etsell believes that further investment in technology is a huge opportunity for the grocery industry to improve growth.
“Near-field communication and mobile transactions will become the next obstacle for retailers to tackle, and the first grocery store to offer mobile as an easy and feasible means of in-store payment will definitely win the retail race,” she explained.
“With the Asian grocery market already using mobile payments, it will be interesting to see who will be the first to truly break out into this space in the UK.”