- A Tesco store in Forres, Scotland recently opened a “relaxed” checkout lane that encourages shoppers to take their time unloading and carting away their goods, according to The Sun. Geared towards elderly and disabled customers, the slower lane is open to anyone who might need additional time, including shoppers with kids.
- The lane, which is open Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, is staffed by workers who receive special training by Alzheimer Scotland, which partnered with the store on the project.
- Tesco has said it will monitor the lane’s performance over time before deciding whether to expand the concept to other stores.
Supermarkets want customers to take their time while shopping. But when it comes time to check out, people want to get out the door as quickly as possible, and retailers have responded with the inclusion of express lanes, self-checkout kiosks, digital lane guides and other innovations. The fanfare surrounding checkout-free Amazon Go further underscores consumer desire to exit the store post-haste.
The relaxed lane concept is a reminder that some shoppers feel alienated by the current checkout experience. The Forres Tesco store’s initiative to bridge this gap is a show of empathy towards these customers, who will no doubt appreciate the gesture.
But is it a smart business move? On the one hand, it’s similar to other optimization steps retailers have taken to speed up front-end operations. Express checkouts are dedicated to customers with smaller baskets, while self-checkout stations cater to those who may only have a few items and prefer to skip the interaction with a checker and bagger. A relaxed lane could be seen as another step in segmenting customers by need, and it could potentially speed up checkout times overall.
Still, operational questions remain. How will the store enforce this? Are there enough customers desiring a slower lane to make the effort financially viable? And what about the hours? If the lane is only open during slow hours, is it really offering a value in comparison to regular checkout lanes? It seems the lanes would be the most valuable during busy hours when lines are longer — but would impatient customers simply migrate over to the relaxed line?
Even if slower checkout lanes don’t catch on, they’ve identified a point of stress for an important segment of shoppers. Elderly customers especially stand to influence retail stores in the coming years as their numbers grow. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of Americans age 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, from 46 million currently to more than 98 million in 2050.