Australian Supermarkets React to UK’s Shift from Self-Checkout

Australian supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have responded to the recent decision by British retailer Booths to largely eliminate self-service checkouts from its stores. Booths announced the removal of these facilities from 26 of its 28 stores, prompting a discussion about the future of self-service technology in the retail sector.

Woolworths emphasised the importance of customer choice, highlighting that their stores offer both self-service and staffed checkout options to cater to different preferences. They noted the widespread use and popularity of self-service technology for its convenience and speed and mentioned employing more staff than ever for various services, including rapid grocery delivery and traditional in-store experiences.

Coles spokesperson described self-service checkouts as a “great option” that offers convenience and efficiency. They reported a high customer preference for these checkouts and increased satisfaction and usage of self-service options over the past year. Coles reaffirmed their commitment to providing employment opportunities, having significantly increased their workforce in recent years.

Internationally, U.S. retailers like Walmart, Costco, and Wegmans are also reevaluating their self-checkout strategies. Booths’ managing director, Nigel Murray, highlighted the challenges with self-service machines, such as being slow, unreliable, and impersonal. He pointed out difficulties in identifying and weighing certain items and age verification for alcohol purchases. These issues, along with concerns about increased merchandise losses due to customer errors and shoplifting, have led some retailers, like Walmart, to reduce self-checkout options in favour of more staff assistance.

This response from Australian retailers reflects a broader trend in the retail industry, where the balance between technology and human interaction in customer service is continually evolving.

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