Self-service tills rising in popularity in France

Self-service checkout tills in supermarkets are becoming more common in France, and stand to change consumer behaviour considerably, a new study has found.

16 July 2019
By Connexion journalist

Of 3,299 stores studied across the country, 1,887 - or 57% - now have at least one self-service till installed, according to a report from consumer insight firm Institut Nielsen.

The tills (called “libre service” in French) allow customers to scan, bag, and pay for their items themselves, without the need for a cashier. A cashier is only needed if there is a problem, or to approve the sale of restricted items such as alcohol.

Currently, the self-service tills are used in 14% of all supermarket transactions in France, and represent 10% of the industry’s total business.

The report also followed consumers for one month, to study their behaviour around self-service tills. During this time, 18% of shoppers used the self-service option at least once, and 7% did not use the traditional cashier tills at all.

Users tend to be split by age and not socio-economic status, the report said, with younger customers and those with families tending to use the automatic tills more than older people, who are more reticent.

Shoppers using self-service tills tend to buy less, with an average of 10 items versus the average of 17 items at the cashier tills. Some categories of product are also more likely to be bought this way, including alcohol, and hygiene or care and maintenance products.

Jean-François Orlando, consumer studies expert at Nielsen, said: “[These shoppers] are responding to very precise ‘shop missions’ - for repair work or an evening party, for example. The consumer therefore has a smaller number of items in their basket and is more likely to use the self-service tills.”

The number of self-service tills varies by brand, with 99% of Auchan stores having them installed. At Leclerc, this drops to 80%. Three quarters of Monoprix stores have them, versus just one third of Intermarché shops.

At Monoprix, 26% of business comes through the self-service tills, versus 16% at Carrefour and just 4% at Intermarché.

Mr Orlando said: “While just three in four Monoprix stores have them currently, these tills have completely changed the behaviour of the clientele.”

Self-service tills are often described as helping to reduce waiting times and queues, and intended to make the buying experience easier and more streamlined.

Auchan and Carrefour have even begun to test completely “automatic stores”, which have no tills at all, and use camera and phone technology to enable shoppers to pay - similar to the system seen in the USA at Amazon Go stores.

In Paris, the Casino brand has opened its first till-less supermarket, which is set to be open 24 hours a day for customers who have already paid for their shopping online.

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