Consumers may find it ironic that box grocery and retail stores keep shoppers connected to essentials, including food, toilet paper and other assorted daily sundries. Yet, at these stores that are primarily essential to today’s society, shoppers find themselves alone at the checkout, as self-serve checkouts are popping up where cashiers once stood.
While cashiers, who make up the third-largest occupation in the United States, seem to be fading, stores are taking advantage of automated checkouts so employees can focus their attention where it’s needed most. Released in February, Walmart’s fourth-quarter earnings report for fiscal year 2022 reiterated this point. Walmart Inc. President and CEO C. Douglas McMillon stated, “our stores are both stores and fulfillment centers,” with a 170% increase in orders coming from their stores versus 2021 on top of the more than 500% increase from 2020.
A recent report from Deloitte and the Food Industry Association suggested that the retail food industry benefited from the pandemic in sales as at-home consumption increased and, consequently, consumer food sales. However, Jennifer Rook, Michigan Retailers Association vice president of communication and marketing, said that “large retailers, in general, have proprietary reasons for adapting with self-checkouts (e.g., lack of workers, loss prevention, etc.).”
Regardless, to maintain the coronavirus-induced momentum, retailers are learning to adapt to the fluid state of the economy and trends in consumer preferences. Drivers include online shopping through store websites and apps, evolving customer service demand, and curbside and in-store pickup. These are the areas where employees are needed.
The implications of these drivers suggest the nature of the work itself is also transforming. According to Deloitte and FMI, “meeting the evolving demands of food retailers can be expensive, and retailers can’t always pass costs on to consumers.” However, once commodity inflation, increased labor costs, and new safety measures increase and place pressure on margins, the industry finds ways to increase productivity and decrease costs.
Utilizing self-serve checkouts is an example of how organizations are creating a culture within organizations that promote growth, adaptability and resilience while maintaining competitiveness and increasing sales growth and market shares.
Representatives for both Walmart and Meijer did not return requests for comment.