COMPETITION FOR SHOPPING BUDDY

Stop & Shop's Shopping Buddy, a laptop-style tablet that attaches to the front of a shopping cart, now has competition.That competition comes in the form of the U-Scan Shopper, another cart-mounted display unit introduced in February by Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, Frisco, Texas, at the Food Marketing Institute's Marketechnics show in Washington. Fujitsu, which is partnering with Klever Marketing,

Stop & Shop's Shopping Buddy, a laptop-style tablet that attaches to the front of a shopping cart, now has competition.

That competition comes in the form of the U-Scan Shopper, another cart-mounted display unit introduced in February by Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, Frisco, Texas, at the Food Marketing Institute's Marketechnics show in Washington. Fujitsu, which is partnering with Klever Marketing, Salt Lake City, in marketing the system, expects to run a beta test this summer at a midsized regional chain, said Vernon Slack, director of mobile solutions for Fujitsu.

In addition, Wincor Nixdorf, Austin, Texas, is marketing a device called the Portable Store Assistant that is similar to the Shopping Buddy.

Meanwhile, Stop & Shop's device, based on hardware from IBM, Armonk, N.Y., and software from Cuesol, Quincy, Mass., continues to be offered in three Massachusetts stores, where they were unveiled in late 2003. According to Robert Keane, spokesman for Stop & Shop, another store will be equipped with the Shopping Buddy in July, while an additional 19 will get it by the end of the year.

Both the Shopping Buddy and the U-Scan Shopper offer consumers similar benefits, such as targeted ads and promotions based on identity and location, full-motion video, self-scanning in the aisle and integration with the point of sale, price checking, remote ordering at the deli or pharmacy, downloadable shopping lists and product locator. However, the U-Scan Shopper differs from the Shopping Buddy in several ways.

First, the U-Scan Shopper is permanently attached to the cart, available to any shopper, though loyalty shoppers get better offers. Each unit is charged by a battery under the cart that is removed by employees for recharging. Fujitsu provides 100 carts per store, at $1,400 per cart, plus over 200 batteries. On the other hand, the Shopping Buddy tablets are kept separate from carts for recharging, and are snapped onto carts by shoppers. Close to 50 Shopping Buddy tablets per store are available to loyalty card shoppers only.

In addition, U-Scan's cart-location triggers are mounted on shelves while Shopping Buddy's triggers are ceiling-mounted. Finally, U-Scan's bar-code scanner is build into the unit while Shopping Buddy's is a separate scanner that hooks onto the main unit.