Self Checkout Systems: A Second Technology Revolution Takes Root

Regular readers of Automatic Merchandiser realize that the industry is undergoing a transformation driven by technology. What some of us may not realize is that this transformation is taking some very different forms.Automatic Merchandiser has focused primarily on the benefits of wireless telemetry and cashless vending in vending machines.Another technology that has shown a lot of growth in recent years is self checkout systems. The Freedom Shopping/Fast Track Convenienceand Avanti Markets are self serve checkouts that allow an operator to offer a much wider range of products to customers.In a self checkout system, products are displayed in open shelves, baskets, refrigerators and freezers in an enclosed area. The customer carries the items to a self service checkout which scans the products by RFID tag or bar code, and thecustomer pays by cash or card.Customers love the systems. They can touch the products before purchasing them and there is far more product variety.For operators, the prices can be changed remotely. There is far less service time required to stock the locations, and much less cleaning is needed. Equipment issues practically disappear.The self checkout systems require a whole new set of considerations for a traditional vending operator. The systems are costly, they have their own learning curve, and they require a dedicated support group. Hence, their progress has been slow.Jim Brinton, owner of Evergreen Vending in Seattle, Wash., has embraced the self checkout concept more aggressively than any individual operator in the last year. His experience with the Avanti Markets is very insightful. He currently has them in 42 locations.He has yet to convert any of his existing locations to self checkout; all 42 are locations he was able to sell on the new concept.Brinton has followed technology closely. He is among that select group of vending pioneers using remote machine monitoring to pre-kit his routes. He is part of the technology revolution that is changing the vending industry.But he has gone astep further than his fellow pioneers with self checkout. Hence, his insights on this development are worth noting.Brinton is a gifted multi-tasker. He started his business in 1976 while working full time as a Seattle police officer. In 2009, he served an extra year as chairman of the National Automatic Merchandising Association due to exceptional circumstances.Brinton has some noteworthy observations about self checkout.A self checkout system takes an investment similar to a full bank of vending machines. But in the right location, it will generate twice the sales and require less service.Brinton believes that self checkout systems will be applicable to 30 percent of the vending locations with 125 people. Thats a lot of locations.He notes the national vending companies are all studying self checkout systems, and he believes theyll be introducing them soon.Progressive independent operators are embracing self checkout in all parts of the country. There is a concerted push on national accounts.Self checkout presents a new set of challenges and opportunities for our industry.

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