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First Look: Walmart's new self-checkout store

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Walmart is testing a store design that takes the self-checkout experience to a new level.

The discount giant is officially confirming mid-June media reports that it opened a pilot supercenter format in Fayetteville, Ark. that replaces traditional, in-person checkout lanes with self-checkout kiosks. Instead of arranging POS terminals in lanes, the store has a front-end layout in which 34 registers line the edges of a wide-open area. 

Each register is equipped with a green light that alerts employees and customers to available checkout bays. All the registers are open. When customers walk into the register area, an employee behind a clear barrier greets them. All the cashiers in the store have been transitioned to a new role called “host.” If a customer wants to check themselves out, a will show them to an open register. If a customer wants to be checked out by an associate, a host rings them up and bags all of their items just like they would have in the old lane-driven layout.

According to Walmart, the new self-checkout format speeds up the checkout process because a lack of visibility into traditional checkout lanes creates a “never-ending grass-is-always-greener” scenario where the customer spends time calculating which line will take the least amount of time. In addition, If the store suddenly gets busier, getting another cashier isn’t always easy.

In the new layout, all 34 registers are always open, making it easier to adapt to changing traffic patterns and maintain a safe social distance within the open area, because there is more room to maneuver. Other benefits include reducing the 40 hours spent training a traditional cashier to less than eight hours training a self-checkout host.

In a corporate blog post announcing the new self-checkout format, Carl Morris, manager of the Fayetteville pilot  store, said the new self-checkout experience is more welcoming to customers.

“When we had the old register layout, you have the sense that there is only a limited amount of space to check out,” said Morris. “Now when they walk in, it is wide open. Any choice they want and any amount of help they need, we can offer them. In this new layout, you get greeted from the entranceway and helped all the way through the whole process."

John Crecelius, senior VP of Walmart U.S. innovations development, agreed that eliminating traditional lanes improves customer engagement. 

“By nature, individual lanes make the checkout experience transactional, but being face-to-face, the interaction becomes a relationship,” said Crecelius. “We want to make it a personal experience.”


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