WINN-DIXIE IS SET TO DOUBLE UNITS OFFERING SELF-CHECKOUT

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Unlike some chains that have tested and then lost enthusiasm for customer self-checkout technology, Winn-Dixie Stores here is rapidly moving forward with system enhancements and a commitment to expand to additional stores.The chain went live with stationary self-scanning stations in its La Place, La., store March 5, bringing to 13 the number of stores offering customers the option

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Unlike some chains that have tested and then lost enthusiasm for customer self-checkout technology, Winn-Dixie Stores here is rapidly moving forward with system enhancements and a commitment to expand to additional stores.

The chain went live with stationary self-scanning stations in its La Place, La., store March 5, bringing to 13 the number of stores offering customers the option to scan and bag their own groceries.

Within four months, an additional 12 to 14 Winn-Dixie stores will add self-checkout technology, Bob Johnson, director of store sales planning, told SN. In addition, the retailer will upgrade existing systems to include a feature that assists shoppers in produce identification.

"It's important that self-checkout be a positive experience for the customer. It has to be user-friendly," he said during a presentation at last month's MarkeTechnics conference in Los Angeles, sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute, Washington.

"Produce identification is certainly an issue, and in our next version of software we will have a method to help the customer with it," even though in many cases shoppers are more knowledgeable than some cashiers, he said.

The new software will provide full-color graphic images of produce items with their price look-up codes displayed on the self-checkout system's monitor. Customers who are uncertain whether the lettuce in their cart is Boston or iceberg can refer to the images in order to key in the appropriate PLU number.

The new produce identification feature will be implemented within the next three months, Johnson said.

Winn-Dixie, which uses the Automated Checkout Machine from Productivity Solutions here, sees both advantages and disadvantages in deploying customer self-checkout technology, he added.

Positives include enhanced customer service, because the four-lane configuration is always open. In addition, the systems provide opportunities to improve front-end productivity and perhaps save on labor costs, although Johnson did not disclose any results in those areas.

On the down side, the technology presents some challenges in upgrading software and hardware because the stations may not be integrated with other point-of-sale systems in the store. Shrink losses are also a possible risk, but Johnson said Winn-Dixie has not experienced significant increases in stores with self-checkout technology.

"An important part of the success of self-checkout is ensuring store people have the mind-set for technology and realize there are additional responsibilities" associated with it, Johnson noted. "Discipline is required in stores to ensure success. That means proper pricing, correct signage and proper scaling of perishables.

"Self-checkout relies on 100% scanning," meaning POS files must be updated in a timely manner, and not-on-files must be eliminated or kept to a strict minimum, he added.