Hannaford Shoppers Line Up for Faster Checkouts

Discussion
Aug 04, 2009
Avatar

By George
Anderson

Some consumers
may love shopping but you’d be hard-pressed to find (m)any that get the
warm and fuzzies thinking about the checkout. Now,
Hannaford Bros. is looking to see if it can find a better way to help
shoppers make their way through the front-end.

One of the
grocery chain’s stores in Ballston Spa, New York has set up a system
where shoppers need to queue up and wait to be directed to a checkout by
a store associate in a similar manner to the way post offices and other
retail businesses move large numbers of people through the last leg of
their facilities.

The Albany
Times-Unio
n reports that the system has been
in place for nearly three months at the store. A shopper at the store, Barbara
Virkler, told the paper, “I find it’s quick, you never wait. It’s smooth,
and I’m not standing there reading tabloid headlines while I wait.
I’m definitely a fan.”

Hannaford’s
Queue System is more than just lining shoppers up. The company makes
use of "queue buster" hand-held cash register units in addition
to the other register to help speed the process. If one cashier is checking
out a shopper, a second can start ringing up the next customer in line.
If the first person in line moves out of the checkout, the associate
at the main register can pick up where the queue buster left off.

Discussion
Questions: Has Hannaford Bros. found a better way to get customers through
the checkout? Should
there be any concern about a loss of front-end sales if the checkout process
becomes more efficient?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

22 Comments on "Hannaford Shoppers Line Up for Faster Checkouts"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
11 years 9 months ago

This sounds like a very interesting, consumer-friendly process that should impress customers. And what a contrast to the average Walmart or Meijer store! I hope that we are kept up to date on how this is received by their shoppers as it could very easily be a model that others will want to embrace as well.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

OMG. It’s back to the future…one more time. Jewel Food Stores in Chicago (now part of Supervalu) did much of this in the ’70s. They had “Super Teams” at peak time slots. Three people would staff the terminals. One to unload the cart, one to scan and tender, and one to bag at the end. The US Dept. of Defense Commissary (DECA) has used the queuing systems for more than 15 years in their food stores. And Apple Stores have use mobile, handheld checkout since they opened their doors.

I guess it’s better late than never. It certainly isn’t rocket science. I could never understand why any grocer would put televisions at the checkouts. That only infers that you’ll be waiting there a long time.

And finally, one more gripe. Why should small item count orders get to check out in the express line? Loyaly $100+ order should get the special treatment. Hence, the “Super Team.”

Shilpa Rao
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Apple stores have successfully used the handled queue busters to reduce customer checkout waiting time. And I’m happy to see more and more retailers doing the same. Reducing customer frustration is always good. One of the things that keep customers away from shopping for their top-ups at big box retailers is the checkout queue. Efficiency in checkout process would make customers come more often, not just for their weekly grocery trip but also for top-ups. A slight dip in the front-end sales would be compensated with increased footfalls and conversions.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
11 years 9 months ago
The question was posed: did Hannaford find a better way? I think the answer depends on the definition of better. Better for the customer? Better for Hannaford? Better for both? I think all customers would tell you that faster is better when discussing time in a cash register line. (Not sure what happens to the person that is in line and suddenly remembers that one additional item.) Better for Hannaford, as the article indicates…that depends. It depends on the cost of retrofitting the stores, buying the handhelds, retraining the cashiers, what it does for labor costs (someone is now directing what was self-directed traffic), the impact on front-end sales, etc. It also depends on whether Hannaford can use it in their marketing to increase traffic in their stores. A few things the article doesn’t touch on; did Hannaford have self checkouts in place before the test? Do they still? Did they do away with their express lanes? As a customer who is very willing to use a self checkout (especially if I have only a… Read more »
Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
11 years 9 months ago

Very unique solution to getting customers processed. The first time I saw it was at Whole Foods in the Time Warner Building. Was not sure why the line was so long to begin with but as I figured out why I was so far back I actually found myself moving quickly and seemed to be more quickly than I would have expected.

The key seemed to be having the right person directing customers and interacting with them in a way that completed the transaction in a positive way.

Joan Treistman
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

I’ve seen this approach work at Whole Foods. Why not Hannaford?

As long as you demonstrate to shoppers that there is progress (even at the cash register line) they will be pleased that the store is trying to help them. Isn’t this the Walt Disney technique for visitors waiting for a ride?

Many of us would rather take a long detour to consistently drive at 35mph than stay on a traffic jammed highway with a speed limit of 65 where we are driving at 2 – 5 mph.

I just wonder why it’s taking so long for supermarkets to come up with shopper-friendly initiatives.

David Biernbaum
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

I like Hannaford’s approach to the faster check out process and I think that if it works out well, many others will follow. One benefit even from the start is that shoppers won’t be frustrated that a different line moved faster than the one in which she or he is in line waiting.

Marge Laney
Guest
11 years 9 months ago
This is a great idea! I especially like the queue buster and have experienced it at our local Sam’s Club. They, unfortunately, only bring it out when all the lines are ridiculously long which only gives a few people relief from the long checkout process. As far as losing impulse revenue at the checkout, I don’t know the statistics on how successful that strategy is, but I can guess by the dog-eared magazines that I pick up and read while waiting. I’m sure, though, that if it the revenue loss is significant, they will find a way to re-position these impulse items to fit the new format. The article talks about the fact that this technology is low-tech and only a temporary solution to the slow checkout process. An expert sees the future shopper checking out via our cell phones or rolling our cart into a checkout that scans everything in five seconds. I wonder if they really understand the psyche of the typical shopper. They may get me checked out in five seconds, but… Read more »
Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
11 years 9 months ago

There are several retailers that I’ve seen do this–Fry’s, Best Buy, JC Penney and Target being examples. I’ve always thought it was a great idea for grocery and I’m not sure why more of them don’t do it. I suppose it’s a space issue with those big shopping carts.

Raymond D. Jones
Guest
Raymond D. Jones
11 years 9 months ago

We have done substantial research around checkout waiting and perception of customer service as part of our Front-End Focus initiative.

The serpentine queue has been used in many retail establishments such as banks for years. All it does is even out the queue so everyone has the same wait time. This can be a positive for some customers and a negative for others.

A key issue revolves around perception of wait time. When the customer is in a line of three people, the wait time seems shorter than a line of 30 people. Also, the products merchandised in a traditional checkout line give the customer something to do while waiting.

Perhaps most important to the retailer is the fact that more than 1% of total store sales occur as impulse purchases at the checkout. The serpentine queue, if not properly merchandised, can endanger those incremental sales.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Some of the stores where I use to shop have put in the single queue line. Some of them have kept my business and some of them have lost my business and the business of a lot of other people. Marshall’s is a good example of someone who has lost my business. Lots of checkout locations, limited number of associates manning the registers, long queue, I and a number of other customers walked out. Don’t go there any more.

This will work and will work well if it is properly staffed. If the line moves faster and the people are trained well, great idea. The only problem I see is that most retailers will not be willing to absorb the cost of providing better service. Those that do will of course win in the long run.

Most retailers are too short-sighted.

Gregory Belkin
Guest
Gregory Belkin
11 years 9 months ago

Coordinated queuing at the point of sale is, for sure, likely to be helpful for the consumer in busy shopping periods. However, I do not believe this is the be all and end all of solving the challenges many retailers face when it comes to POS management. In fact, there is no real magic formula to solve all challenges at this (usually) final interaction at the store. Instead retailers must be creative and strategic when they come up with their POS strategy. For example, some retailers send their associates into the field with mobile scanners and payment processing devices to "line bust.” Other top retailers are turning their POS devices into truly marketing-centric points of service, helping customers benefit from increased product knowledge and availability metrics (my colleague here at Aberdeen wrote a brilliant report to this effect, which can be downloaded for free.)

So, hats off to Hannaford. Now, it’s time to extend this activity with increased customer-centric behavior.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 9 months ago

If you give me two retailers; one who obsesses about their “front-end sales” number and the other who obsesses about making life easier for their customers, I’ll put my money on the latter every time. In the long-term, they’ll win.

Part of the reason that so many of our customer-service systems are broken in the first place is that retailers put their own needs before those of their consumers.

Would anyone really sit down and develop a contemporary retail sales strategy based on the idea that if you serve people slowly, make them stand in long lines and inconvenience them, they’ll buy more and be more loyal?

Hopefully this signifies that the days of herding people like cattle through a stall of candy, lighters and tabloids are coming to an end. Let’s move on.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 9 months ago
Examples of a queue system are abundant, and some have been mentioned here by other commentators. It comes down to store execution–be it the queue or the multiple register system. Consumers vote with their “feet” when it comes to “Reasons for Switching Stores shopped most often. For example, the BIGresearch “Consumer Intentions & Actions monthly Survey asks Consumers their “Reason for Switching Stores” (proceeded by “Years Shopped Most Often” and “Previous Store/Channel Shopped Most Often”). A variety of Reasons for “Switching” are provided, however, “LONG LINES AT CHECKOUT” are troubling for the Consumer. They say: Percentage of Adults WhoSWITHCHED STORE DUE TO LONG CHECKOUT LINES(multiple reasons can be chosen) Home Improvement/Hardware – 2.7%Men’s Clothing – 2.5%Women’s Clothing – 6.2%Shoes – 3.2% Children’s Toys – 7.8%Health & Beauty Aids – 10.95Grocery – 10.2% At nearly $6,500 per annual Grocery Spend per customer, it doesn’t take too many lost Consumers for a Grocer to say, “Is there a better way?”–especially with these type of stats. It’s all about taking care of the Customer from the time they… Read more »
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
11 years 9 months ago

It just needs a little common sense which is too sorely lacking at retail. This system works in Whole Foods, Apple and I’m sure there are even more conveniences that could easily be put in place. How about handheld scanners for customers and we just pay as we shop? Then we just get our receipt at the end. I’m sure it’s coming.

Bruce Buckley
Guest
Bruce Buckley
11 years 9 months ago

In reply to Ralph Jacobson’s gripe about express checkouts, one reason to speed the checkout process for smaller orders is that the shopper on the express line may be the usual $100-plus customer just who just forgot to pick up something for the evening meal. Why get her more steamed up when all she wants is to get home quickly to finish preparing dinner?

Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
11 years 9 months ago

Absolutely; retailers should focus on better service–a better experience overall–at the checkout, and impulse buys of those things like candy, lighters and tabloids as palliatives for the long wait be damned. Frankly, in the stores I shop, if the wait is terrible, you don’t even get to those things until you’re already at the conveyor anyway, so it actually holds up the line of the people behind us when we grab them.

Besides–the ‘wow!’ customer experience ought to drive return visits up more than enough to recoup any lost impulse sales.

And, Ralph, I love your comment! Talk about replacing that one percent of gum and candy sales–and getting repeat business from the most profitable customers in the store:

“Why should small item count orders get to check out in the express line? Loyal $100+ orders should get the special treatment.”

You wouldn’t be part of a certain herd, known for its love of direct marketing but profound aversion to bovine excrement, would you? Or are you just naturally blessed with oceans of common sense?

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 9 months ago

To answer the question “would queue checkout lines damage front end sales?” I would simply ask back: why is this same issue so seldom mentioned when the discussion of DIY/self-checkout is had? At the stores I frequent, ALL of the typical front end targets such as candy, gum, magazines and crazy glue are several aisles away from the self-check installation–back over beside the regular register lines.

So, put me in the camp that urges retailers to strive to save their customers as much time and annoyance at checkout time as they possibly can. Customers who prefer queues may be different shoppers than those who prefer self-checkout. But more efficient and faster checkout is usually the end result of either approach. And THAT is almost always a winner with customers.

John Lingnofski
Guest
John Lingnofski
11 years 9 months ago

Fairway Market on the Upper West Side in Manhattan has been using a low-tech version of this for years. Whenever it’s busy, one of the managers comes out and directs people on line to the next available checkout. Once you get used to being directed, it works like a charm.

Sam Horton
Guest
Sam Horton
11 years 9 months ago

Costco uses this system during peak periods. Simply scan the membership card to insure the right order gets processed and move swiftly through the line. I could never understand why other supermarkets didn’t do this, with the abundance of loyalty cards. Glad to see Hannaford in being proactive to eliminate the main irritation of supermarket shoppers.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Note that Walmart’s Marketside stores in Phoenix are also using a single checkout queue.

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
11 years 8 months ago

One of the most critical times in a retail sales process is checkout. Often, this point is where you either build customer relationships or tear them down. How many of us can remember waiting in line interminably while the employee at checkout has to complete some laborious process? What did that wait and frustration do to our feelings about the brand and the store in particular? In some cases, I have never gone back….

Yes, there will be some decline in impulse sales in the checkout line, but I feel those will be MORE than made up in customer loyalty, increased frequency and share of wallet.

Well done, Hannaford. Now, if you would just please teach some grocers in Minnesota to do the same!

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Would you recommend a queue checkout system, similar to what Hannaford is using, for other supermarkets?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...