Fresh & Easy Shoppers Like Self-Checkout

The jury is still out on market acceptance of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, but its highly unorthodox all-self-checkout front-end arrangement appears to be succeeding. Internal research conducted by Fresh & Easy the U.S. division of British supermarket giant Tesco, which opened stores in three Western U.S. states last November indicates that 90% of its customers said they were satisfied

LAS VEGAS — The jury is still out on market acceptance of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, but its highly unorthodox all-self-checkout front-end arrangement appears to be succeeding.

Internal research conducted by Fresh & Easy — the U.S. division of British supermarket giant Tesco, which opened stores in three Western U.S. states last November — indicates that 90% of its customers said they were “satisfied or very satisfied” with the checkout experience, according to Doug Rutledge, Fresh & Easy's chief information officer. The lowest scores were seen at the one store, in Anaheim, Calif., that uses a few conventionally staffed checkouts due to space limitations.

In a separate survey conducted by one of Tesco's shareholders, 60% of shoppers said they found the self-checkout scenario “favorable” and 27% said it “doesn't matter,” while 13% said they would prefer conventionally staffed checkouts, reported Rutledge.

Rutledge provided this update at the Food Marketing Institute/Marketechnics Show, held here last week.

Fresh & Easy, which currently operates 61 10,000-square-foot stores, with plans to have 200 stores by next February, employs nine self-checkout lanes in each store: five belted lanes for large orders (color-coded red) and four two-bag lanes for smaller orders (color-coded green). None of the lanes accept checks. The self-checkout technology is provided by NCR, Atlanta.

Rutledge described the lanes as “assisted checkout” because store employees — up to nine at peak times — stand in front of the checkout area and offer to help shoppers. In addition, one remote-access station oversees all of the lanes.

Fresh & Easy hires front-end employees whom it identifies as having service-oriented personalities. “We want people to bring their personalities to work,” he said.