STAR MARKET TO INSTALL SELF-SCANNING STATIONS IN ONE UNIT

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Customer self-scanning stations will be installed at one store operated by Star Market Co. here following a three-month test now under way at the chain's headquarters.The 34-store chain began testing the technology last month in a lab environment and in April will outfit one store with a cluster of four self-service checkstands, each equipped with its own automated payment unit

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Customer self-scanning stations will be installed at one store operated by Star Market Co. here following a three-month test now under way at the chain's headquarters.

The 34-store chain began testing the technology last month in a lab environment and in April will outfit one store with a cluster of four self-service checkstands, each equipped with its own automated payment unit and change dispenser.

"Star has a number of initiatives on the board for this calendar year and many of them are customer-service oriented, such as the self-scanning units," said Brian Asselin, director of information systems.

The self-service checkstands are designed for shoppers to scan their purchases, bag their own groceries and pay for them without need for cashier intervention. The units are monitored via closed-circuit TV, however, and assistance is available for certain tasks, such as produce identification and check authorization.

Asselin told SN Star Market's primary objective for the project is to enhance customer service by speeding up the checkout process. "There are secondary benefits too: We can expect some labor savings and can move some people out to the sales floor to be more responsive to customer needs," he said.

The self-scanning checkstands are equipped with color computer monitors that guide the shopper through the process via both video and audio instruction.

The technology was provided by Optimal Robotics, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Other retailers testing the system, called U-Scan Express,

include Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., and the Louisville, Ky., division of Kroger Co., Cincinnati. Kroger's Louisville KMA outfitted a second store late last month while another Kroger division in Columbus, Ohio, continues to test a different self-scanning system from Productivity Solutions, Jacksonville, Fla.

Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass., will test the system later this year, a spokesman told SN. Although a timetable was not disclosed, Shaw's reportedly will launch the test in May.

At Finast, Maple Heights, Ohio, a different approach to customer self-scanning continues to be tested in one store. The chain's Lakewood, Ohio, store has made available to 100 selected shoppers handheld scanners to record purchases as items are picked up from the shelf.