I don’t like the concept of ’schadenfreude’ ie deriving pleasure from someone else’s misfortune, but I must admit that when I heard Sainsbury’s first till-free store trial had not worked, I did smile.
At the end of April, to much fanfare, the supermarket giant said its Holborn Circus Local shop was going to be ’mobile first and check-out free’. This meant there were no tills and instead shoppers scanned their groceries using the SmartShop Scan as they went round the store, then paid using an app. At the time, Sainsbury’s said 82% of transactions at Holborn Circus were cashless and the range of products in the store had been tailored specifically for busy customers buying food-to-go items. Speed came first in this store so during the three-month trial no booze or tobacco was sold because of the time it takes to verify the customers’ age. It sounded like they had thought of everything except the people who still wanted to pay using cash or a card, which resulted in queues at the store’s helpdesk.
I am not a big fan of self-checkout because it’s been developed for the vast majority of the population who are right-handed. I am left-handed and cack-handed and invariably want to swipe my shopping the wrong way. Also I’ve always been concerned about store staff losing their jobs when shops move to self-scanning and self-checkout. However, I needn’t have worried because automation means customers need help think age verification, items not scanning or tagged items needing untagging.
Anyway back to Sainsbury’s, and although their Holborn experiement ’created excitement among customers’ who loved the ’quick and simple’ app, many did not and you’ll now find a manned till and two self-service checkouts at the store.
In a blog post, Sainsbury’s said it was clear than not all its customers were ready for a totally till-free store. It said till-free shopping is still available in the Holborn Circus store, as well as eight other c-stores across London. It added: "We’ll take the learnings from this experiment to develop our technology even further to help make shopping easier and more convenient for all our customers". I bet they will.