As part of the National Prevention Agreement, the sale of tobacco products will be banned in Dutch supermarkets from the 1st July 2023. This agreement will necessitate signifcant changes to the supermarket checkout area, especially in terms of the function of the service/ store counter . For years, tobacco sales have been the principal source of revenue at the service counter/checkout counter, making the allocation of a service counter employee profitable. In order to enhance efficiency further , service counter activities have been expanded over time to include other service-related activities, but these activities are not commercially viable in themselves. They are predominately funded by tobacco sales.
With the disappearance of tobacco sales, the revenue model of the service counter/store counter in its current form will become obsolete. The significant labor costs and shop floor space required for a service/store counter will soon not be covered by tobacco sales, and so the service counter will need to adopt a different role or may even disappear altogether.
CURRENT ACTIVITIES AT THE SERVICE/STORE COUNTER
Reconsidering the role of the service/store counter involves looking for alternatives to the current activities completed there. However, it also creates opportunities to re-use released retail space more effectively. The role of the service counter employee will evolve and can be redefined. To find alternatives, it is important to take stock of the current activities performed by the service counter in addition to tobacco sales. Consider the activities below, in order of importance and the level of impact on the checkout area.
For all the activities mentioned, alternative solutions can be envisaged. The aim should be to maintain or potentially even improve the level of service that customers experience in your shop/store as much as possible.
SALE OF THEFT-SENSITIVE ITEMS
The sale of theft-sensitive items at the service/store counter is required due to the loss of such items on the shop floor. If the service counter disappears, several alternative solutions can be deployed to reduce the risk of theft. One simple and cost-effective measure is to place these items as close as possible to the checkout area so that they remain within sight of the self-checkout host and checkout staff. Alternatively , you could present these items in a closed display case and invite customers to complete the sales process with the assistance of an employee . Product vending machines can be deployed, using existing vending technology including Machine Vision or RFiD technology. When these items are available at multiple locations on the shop floor, item security using RF/AM EAS systems, RFiD or hybrid variants can be employed to maintain security.
CONTACT POINT FOR INQUIRIES & CUSTOMER SERVICE
The service/store counter is the first point of contact for customers with questions or customer service issues including returning items or asking questions about products/services. This role could be adopted by the host of the self-checkout area. A scaled-down service counter can potentially be sited between the self-scanning area and the shop exit to maintain a single point of contact for customers. Another possibility is to install a self-service kiosk , where frequently asked questions from customers can be answered by a chatbot or a remote customer service team in most cases, with the option to request assistance from a shop employee if required.
GAMING AND BETTING SERVICES
Gaming and betting services are often sold as impulse purchases alongside tobacco sales. This means that gaming and betting sales will also need to change in supermarkets and retailers. A number of alternatives are available to facilitate this. Gaming and betting can be offered digitally through a self-service kiosk equipped with its own ticket printer. Alternatively, customers could be presented with the option for betting and gaming products digitally via the self-checkout screen. A similar solution could be implemented at supermarket checkouts , with betting snd gaming services being advertised on a display for customers. The checkout assistant can then collect payment and print the selected gambling product for the customer . Some supermarkets and retailers may also consider not offering gaming and betting services entirely. It is expected thatfuture regulations may prevent this in the future and it may eventually disappear from supermarkets.
POSTAL AND PARCEL SERVICES
Postal and parcel services are a key function of a busy service/store counter. While these services may not be profitable on their own, they generate valuable footfall for supermarkets. In terms of parcel collections, parcel lockers are already in use in many supermarkets. They are a convenient solution which helps customers collect their parcels at their own convenience by using a code to open the relevant locker. Returns can be slightly more complex to process. However, a self-service kiosk is a suitable digital solution.The customer can simply scan the barcode on the product and the digital kiosk will then print a return receipt for them. To complete the return process, the return item can be placed on a roll container with the return parcels. Ending items by recorded delivery can also be achieved with a self-service solution which completes the entire process digitally.
A number of activities that are currently provided at the service/store counter are less important, but will still need to be provided in a different way. Items like bags, receipt rolls, stationery, etc. can be stored in the checkout assistants space. While the sale of flowers, seasonal items and promotional items during special events can be relocated to the main retail space or can be paid for via a dedicated self-checkout outside the regular checkout area. Other retail-related t asks including answering phone calls, issuing shopping cart tokens and accepting returns can be moved to the self-checkout counter within the checkout zone.
FIND THE PERFECT SOLUTION SERVICE/STORE COUNTER SOLUTION
Our specialists are happy to help you find the perfect solution for your service/store counter. We are experienced at service area redesign and can deliver seamless solutions including integrating service functions into the self-checkout area. As a specialist in checkout and self-service solutions, we have been providing tailor-made solutions for payment, transaction, information and reception processes for over 50 years.
Our innovative and modular solutions are hardware and software independent, so you can use the hardware items and software solutions that best suit your business. Achieving the optimal front-end is possible with our help. Why not rely on our award-winning design team, which has won the prestigious Red Dot Design award in 2018 and 2023? They are adept at creating practical solutions with a modern look that provide a great customer experience.
If you would like to discuss improving your service/store counter, get in touch with us. Contact us to arrange a free consultation.