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Consumers eager to ring up sales at self-service tills

A new survey shows that a vast majority of people in Finland are happy to use self-service checkout points where available when they shop. The popularity of the tills has skyrocketed in five years.

Itsepalvelukassa Prismassa
Quick and easy, according to almost everyone. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Self-service payment registers have become very popular very fast in Finnish supermarkets and department stores. The Finnish Commerce Federation (FCF) estimates that the number of human cashiers will diminish in the future, although the machines have had positive effects for retail sector employees.

FCF analysed 8,000 customer feedback responses and found that almost all respondents – 90 percent -- consider self-service shopping easy and accessible. The terminals offer payment instructions in a number of languages including English, Estonian and Russian.

Head economist Jaana Kurjenoja says that the tills are not meant to justify staff cuts but to streamline daily service and avoid backlogs at checkouts.

Self-service tills are not entirely automated as a sales clerk has to be on hand for tasks such as checking the IDs of people buying alcohol and tobacco products. Kurjenoja says that the checkout devices have made cashiers' work shifts more flexible.

One in five

Retail conglomerate K-Group piloted its first self-serve registers in Lahti in 2012. At the time customers were not enthusiastic about the newfangled machines, but in a few years attitudes have changed.

"The time is ripe, and the tills have been very well received," service manager Teemu Naumanen says.

K-Group's efforts have brought self-service shopping to a total of 83 locations nationwide. Shops must reach a certain sales volume for the devices to be worth the investment – which is why most of K-Group's tills are found in the huge and multi-purpose Citymarket emporiums.

Naumanen says that one in five K-Group customers now uses self-service checkout points, amounting to some 400,000 customers every week.

"People hate queuing, that's why this works. Customers also like shopping at their own pace," Naumanen elaborates.

Ikea a forerunner

Some of the first DIY checkouts in Finland were installed in interior design giant Ikea, whose own customer surveys also point to  the devices' rapidly growing popularity.

Five years ago less than one-third of Ikea customers considered self-service tills practical, whereas in an autumn 2016 poll nearly 90 percent of respondents were keen on the idea.

Ikea launched its self-service campaign for the same reasons as K-Group, to shorten checkout lines.

"More than half of our customers choose self-service, and kids like the activity," customer chief Tarja Sallanen says.

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