PIGGLY WIGGLY TO ROLL OUT BIOMETRIC PAYMENT TO 83 STORES

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Based on positive customer response to a four-store pilot, Piggly Wiggly Carolina here will roll out a biometric point-of-sale payment system to the rest of its 83 company stores by May.The system, a finger scan-based program from Pay By Touch, San Francisco, will also be offered to Piggly Wiggly Carolina's 31 independent stores, said Rich Farrell, vice president of information

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Based on positive customer response to a four-store pilot, Piggly Wiggly Carolina here will roll out a biometric point-of-sale payment system to the rest of its 83 company stores by May.

The system, a finger scan-based program from Pay By Touch, San Francisco, will also be offered to Piggly Wiggly Carolina's 31 independent stores, said Rich Farrell, vice president of information systems, Piggly Wiggly Carolina.

The rollout represents "to my knowledge" the largest implementation to date of biometrics as a payment mechanism in the supermarket industry, said Farrell. The technology has heretofore been tested at the checkout by just a handful of retailers, including Kroger and West Seattle Thriftway, though it has been more widely used as an identification device for check cashing.

Piloted since last July in four South Carolina Piggly Wiggly corporate stores, the biometric technology allows enrolled customers to access financial accounts by placing their finger on a reading mechanism at the POS.

"Customers like the feature, it builds loyalty, and it makes us a little different from other retailers," said Farrell. "It's also helped Piggly Wiggly reduce its transaction fees."

The biometric system promotes less-costly ACH payment transactions -- which withdraw funds directly from a shopper's bank account -- by presenting that payment option to shoppers who've scanned their finger, before debit and credit options.

Piggly Wiggly Carolina will go live with biometrics payments in all corporate stores simultaneously to best leverage its marketing resources, said Farrell. "All of the cabling and wiring will take place in February with the help of IBM," he said. "Training will take place in March and April, and then the [biometrics] feature should be up and running no later than the end of May."

Lessons learned from Piggly Wiggly's biometrics pilot will be incorporated into training sessions presented to customer-service employees who will enroll customers in the system and to cashiers. For instance, Piggly Wiggly plans to advise its employees of the best techniques for getting customers enrolled.