Time to revamp checkstands

October 30, 2012

Shopper mindset and traffic don’t add up anymore for the usual assortments at cash registers.

Wait in line to pay and hope the cashier is careful and quick. Keep kids’ hands away from single-serve candies and other temptations within reach. Come up with enough dough. Wow, checklanes can be exhausting.

Checkouts are a shortcoming in most supermarkets because they add to shopper anxiety. It’s much better, we think at The Lempert Report, if the front-end sets a tone of appreciation for the visit and a calm, smooth transition out of the store.  

We don’t know how many will follow our suggestion because it is at odds with the goal of many retailers to sell more at the front-end and collect display allowances. But business as usual may be costing supermarkets valuable trips, in our view.  Why?

1.    Shoppers looking to save money don’t like to be hustled at the end of a trip – especially if they made lists and weighed decisions at the shelf to stick to their budgets.
2.    A plumper nation of shoppers wants to eat healthier to feel better and avoid Type 2 diabetes. Do sugary, salty, fatty snacks and beverages in such close proximity help them achieve their goals?
3.    If shopping with their kids, they don’t want the extra stress.  
4.    Single-copy magazine sales continue to plummet. Unit sales of audited publications are down 44% in the past four years, according to ABC figures cited by Audience Development.

Consider too that between trip share already lost by supermarkets (15%) and shoppers opting for self-checkout or mobile checkout alternatives (about 35%), there’s nearly 50% less traffic going through staffed, fully merchandised checklanes than a few years ago.  

It’s time to make checkout a more pleasant experience, and give people one less reason to avoid the supermarket. A few thought starters:  the healthy snack choices in Hy-Vee checklanes, such as almonds, trail mix, fruit, granola bars, baked chips and milk; the wide assortments by Trader Joe’s registers; the great aromas that emanated from coffee bean grinders at A&P front-ends.