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Time Poor Retailers Can't Afford to Stand In Line at C&C Checkouts

There are more people in employment in the UK now than for the last forty years. Great news of course but qualified by the pressure this is putting on the labour market, which in turn is making it difficult for businesses to find reliable and skilled people. Many small enterprises, especially retailers and caterers are becoming time poor as a result. They are seeking ways to spend more time in their businesses.  This is driving more and more customers to delivered solutions from their service providers – notably the wholesalers.  Not great news for the cash & carry’s (C&Cs) whose costs to serve are increasing as a consequence.

For the most part, the number of business customers visiting the C&Cs is declining. These people absolutely need to get through the checkouts quickly. They can’t afford to spend excessive down time waiting in line to pay for their goods.  The C&Cs need to hold on to their “collect” customers as they deliver more net profit than the delivered customers. After all they are doing all the work – unpaid.

The big challenge for the C&Cs is to offer as smooth a front-end experience as possible. This is becoming a critical part of the value package. But right now it’s not unusual for customers to endure a tortuous eight-step front-end journey that goes something like this: -

  • Arrive at the checkouts with a loaded trolley and stand in line.
  • Watch the checkout operator scan the products as they transfer the goods to another trolley.
  • Take the trolley with the goods and the invoice to the cash point window.
  • Stand in line again to pay for the goods.
  • Take the loaded trolley with the paid for goods to the exit door.
  • Stand in line and wait for the security person to the re-check the goods against the invoice.
  • Take the checked and paid for goods to the car park.
  • Load own vehicle with the goods.

Not exactly frictionless or customer friendly. And not consistent with the customers’ needs of getting the job done quickly.

Designing out these obstacles must be a priority for the C&Cs if they want to hold on to their much-needed collect customers. Technology will provide most of the solutions. A number of operators are rolling out self-scan reasonably successfully. However, with B2B it’s a limited option and there is a considerable shrinkage risk attached and secondary exit door checking is still required thus neutralising many of the customer benefits. I don’t know if such a thing exists but I’ve always thought that a checkout tunnel would be the answer. Roll the loaded trolley into the tunnel. Zap! All items scanned. Pay and go. Maybe one day.

In the meantime the operator providing the quickest and most efficient front-end service will hold a considerable competitive advantage.  Today’s time poor customers cannot afford to wait in line. A good reason to double down on solving the problem.

David Gilroy

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