Booths, which has supermarkets in Hesketh Bank and Burscough, is bucking the trend for national retailers by stripping out self-service checkouts – and bringing back top quality customer service.
The issue has been a hot topic in the Stand Up For Southport Facebook group this week, with a post shared by Alwynne Cartnell showing rows of empty self-checkout tills being seen by 9,000 people, gaining over 330 likes and attracting dozens of comments.
Booths is now working to build on its reputation for customer service and premium store experience by cutting back on the unmanned tills.
The grocer is in the process of removing the technology from all but two of its 27 supermarkets. It is planning to increase the number of manned checkouts and pay points across its footprint as part of its ongoing store renovation programme.
It runs in direct contrast to a wider shift across the industry over the past few years, which has seen supermarkets gradually replace manned checkouts with banks of self-service tills in stores.
Supermarket executives claim the shift has helped them to cut costs, and speed up the time it takes to serve customers. However, many shoppers have expressed frustration at the trend, which some claim detracts from overall service levels.
Booths Managing Director Nigel Murray told The Grocer: “We’re not great fans of self-checkouts.
“We pride ourselves on great customer service and you can’t do that through a robot.”
The regional supermarket first began introducing self-checkouts into stores six years ago as a way of helping to manage its wage bill and increase efficiency, Murray said.
However, he said the technology could be problematic and overall detracted from the enjoyment of shopping at Booths.
Customers having to wait for a store colleague to visually ID them when buying alcohol, or issues with checkouts registering the correct items or weights were some of the downsides to the technology he gave.
Despite the wider pushback, it “made sense” to keep the technology at two of Booths’ busiest stores in the Lake District – in Windermere and Keswick – as these could get “quite busy” if a large number of tourists turned up during a short time period, Murray said.
The wider store development programme includes plans to expand its counter format – which includes meat, fish and cheese – into new categories.
As part of the new formats, Booths has added separate pay points at counters to improve customer choice. The new points will also ease the burden on the front of checkouts as customers will be able to spread their payment around the store.
Booths has also begun the rollout of the latest version of its Cafe 1847 concept across all stores.