Self-checkouts not always the best option for retailers, claims IT support specialist


Morrisons’ decision to replace some of its self-service checkouts with manned stations, following a poll which showed 60% of its customers prefer someone at the till, comes as no surprise to Simon Phillips, retail sales, Barron McCann, a nationwide retail IT support service provider 

Reports suggest there are now more self-service checkouts in the UK than across the whole of Europe but there are clearly still issues with their overall performance, as one survey revealed over 60% of customers didn’t like using them.

However, due to the complex nature of the units and the security issues associated with them (ie the cash inside), manufacturers currently do not allow retailers to use contractors to help service and maintain these machines in the same way as they do for other business critical equipment such as tills, scanners and printers. Barron McCann currently works on 6-7,000 traditional fixes per month across retail stores in the UK, although this does not include self-service checkouts for the reasons mentioned above.

For retailers, they are not cheap to set up either, as a typical four lane set up can cost in the region of £85,000 to install (reference source:

Self-service checkouts are extremely complex pieces of equipment which include scales, scanners, touch screens, software, till, receipt roll, card and cash payment processing; as well as the ability to provide cash back to the customer in the form of both notes and change. This means that there are a vast number of things that can go wrong compared to traditional till points and, in many cases, the problems cannot be manually overridden or an alternative way round devised in store as you sometimes see happening on traditional checkouts. What’s more, the primary users of self-service checkouts are the people who are least trained in their use – the public.

As a result, reliability and till downtime continues to be a challenge for retailers who are actively promoting the use of self-service checkouts in their stores. With this in mind, it is no surprise Morrisons has plans to re-introduce more staffed checkouts as, ultimately, the customer preference will always be the overriding factor.