March 29, 2004

Grocery Checkout Albertsons

Albertsons Inc. is taking supermarket self-checkout to the next level by introducing handheld scanners

Albertsons: It's your self-serve store

Dallas is first to get scanners that will help shoppers, chain says

02:11 PM CST on Monday, March 29, 2004

By MARIA HALKIAS / The Dallas Morning News

Albertsons Inc. is taking supermarket self-checkout to the next level by introducing handheld scanners that shoppers can use as they move up and down the aisles, bagging their groceries as they go.

The chain is installing the technology first in the Dallas area, where Wal-Mart Stores Inc. bumped it from its perch as the No. 1 grocer last year.

Called Shop 'n' Scan, the system has been tested in several stores here and will be installed in all 103 area Albertsons stores by mid-April, the company said.

Albertsons, the No. 2 U.S. grocer, says shoppers have mastered self-checkout lanes and are ready for more technology that can speed up trips to the store.
How it works

With Albertsons' Shop 'n' Scan system, you scan and bag your groceries as you go through the store.

1. Take your Preferred Card to the Shop 'n' Scan display. (Albertsons doesn't require personal information to issue a customer a Preferred Card.) Scan your card and wait for a handheld scanner to light up. That will be your scanner.

2. Take it along with some grocery bags and a shopping cart and head for the aisles. (You can bring sacks from home if you prefer.)

3. The handheld scanner has a display and a trigger. Scan an item and place it in a bag. Items that won't scan, such as beer, wine, liquor and cigarettes, should be left out of bags and are recorded at checkout as required by law.

4. If you decide to put an item back, scan it and press the minus key.

5. If you can't remember whether you picked up something, scroll your list with the up and down keys.

6. Press the "i" key to see offers available only to Shop 'n' Scan customers.

7. At checkout, point the scanner at the "end of trip" bar code at the register and pull the trigger. That transfers your grocery list and prints a receipt. Pay as you would otherwise. There's no need to take your groceries out of the bags.

8. Place the scanner in a return rack.

SOURCES: Albertsons and Dallas Morning News research

The Shop 'n' Scan system not only allows shoppers to keep a running tally of their purchases but also notifies them when film orders and prescriptions are ready.

Albertsons is the first supermarket chain to implement the technology in the United States, said NCR Corp., one of the chain's partners in the project.

A spokeswoman for the chain, based in Boise, Idaho, said the company will take the scanners to other markets but hasn't determined which will get them next.

"Dallas is the most competitive market in the U.S., and we're committed to giving our customers the best shopping experience. Shop 'n' Scan is part of our brand promise to make life easier for them," said Judy Spires, president of Albertsons' Dallas-Fort Worth division.

At the same time, Albertsons is adding scales in the produce department that generate labels after shoppers weigh fruits and vegetables and punch in a code.

Albertsons has been among the most aggressive grocers in the battle for market share as Wal-Mart has expanded here with supercenters and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets.

Last year, Albertsons brought back online grocery shopping to Dallas-Fort Worth and upgraded its toy aisles in a partnership with Toys R Us.

On a national level, Albertsons announced Friday that it is buying the 202-store Shaw chain in New England, strengthening its regional position where Wal-Mart has yet to build many stores.

Albertsons' timing should be in step with some shoppers' appetites for self-service.

According to the Food Marketing Institute, 53 percent of grocery shoppers use self-checkout at least once a month and 24 percent use it at least once a week when the stores have the service available.

Maria Gutierrez of Dallas grabbed a plastic grocery sack and checked out a scanner with her Albertsons Preferred Card as she arrived at the store at McKinney and Lemmon avenues last week.

She picked up a few items before work and didn't even bother getting a shopping cart.

"It works out great when you're on a budget. I know how much I'm spending," Ms. Gutierrez said.

Shoppers immediately point out the scanners' advantage as a budgeting tool, Ms. Spires said.

As far as the potential for theft, Ms. Spires said, Albertsons says people are generally honest and that hasn't been a problem so far. But the system does have ways to protect the store from shoplifters. People who check out the scanners also agree to random checks.

Some chains in Europe, including Metro AG in Germany, have been trying out similar shopping cart scanning technologies.

The system that Albertsons is using was developed in a partnership announced last year by Symbol Technologies Inc. and NCR. | News for Dallas, Texas | Business

Posted by Craig at March 29, 2004 08:42 PM