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Sainsbury trials self-scanning but back-end integration challenge looms

Daniel Thomas
Supermarket chain Sainsbury has become the latest retailer to begin using self-scanning checkouts, in what will be the largest trial of the technology to date in the UK.

Analysts said the move, which follows similar trials from Tesco and Marks & Spencer last year, will be emulated by most large retailers within two years.

“By 2005, most will be using self-scanning technology of some sort to help customers and employees - whether at the checkout or with a mobile device,” said Jacqui Hendriks, research director at GartnerG2. “Mobile devices may be easier to implement in the short  term but self-scanning checkouts will suit certain retailers.”

Linking tills to back-office systems will be he major IT challenge facing retailers wanting to implement self-scanning checkouts, said Hendriks.

”This is where the real value lies, but it is a difficult process,” she said. “It is up to the [IT] suppliers to help with integration but they do not always do it. Integration has to be high on the priority list when retailers are discussing self-scanning technology with suppliers.”

The Sainsbury’s checkouts, which will, initially, be trialled in six stores across the UK, will allow customers to scan their own items, bag their own purchases, pay with cash, debit or credit cards and get cash back.

The tills, which use software that recognises the barcode and exact weight of every product in store, will be installed across the country if customers embrace the concept, said Malcolm Davies, service manager at Sainsbury’s.

Davies added that Sainsbury’s was encouraged by the success of similar checkouts used by its US supermarket chain Shaw, which processes one billion transactions through the tills every year.

“We are always sharing ideas with our stores in the US and we will be working out whether user trends follow those in the US,” he said.

Tesco, which began self-scanning checkout trials last November, said the response from customers has been very positive.

“In research carried out in Leamington Spa, 98% said they enjoyed using them and would do so again,” said a Tesco spokesman. “We have self-scan in five stores and plan to roll out to several more stores by the end of the year.”

Marks & Spencer, meanwhile, is rolling out its self-checkout tills to a further eight stores this autumn following the success of the initial three-store trial, which will make it the largest self-checkout installation in the UK.


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