Retail’s Big Self-Checkout Problems — and How to Solve Them

The ECR Community Shrink and OSA Group recently conducted a two-year study on identifying self-checkout problems and their associated risks to the bottom line.


Self-scan and self-checkout technologies have become ubiquitous in the retail sector in recent years. When was the last time you saw a major grocery store without them? The kiosks offer labor and cost savings to retailers, while customers love their DIY efficiency.

Unfortunately, as with any technological evolution, self-checkout problems do arise—and they often have to do with an increase in shrinkage loss.

The ECR Community Shrinkage and On-shelf Availability Group recently conducted a two-year study on identifying self-checkout problems and their associated risks to the bottom line. The study collected data from thirteen retailers in the United States and Europe as well as two solution providers in the self-checkout space. Results, major findings, and subsequent recommendations from the study are shared in a feature article from the January-February 2019 issue of LP Magazine. From the article:

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Interviews were carried out with seventy-three key stakeholders from these companies, and eleven store visits were conducted to review the technologies in use. In addition, a range of data points were collected from participating retailers, including 140 million scan-and-go transactions, 17 million transaction audits, 486,000 items found not to have been scanned, video analytics of €72 billion ($83 billion USD) of fixed SCO transactions, and comparative shrinkage data from thousands of retail stores.

The study does not take into account the likely productivity savings retailers can accrue from using this technology nor any possible reductions in loss as a consequence of employing fewer staff for instance. This needs to be kept in mind when reviewing the data. It is also worth noting the significant challenges the research faced in trying to collect, collate, and analyze data from retailers on the losses associated with SCO systems—the absence of quality data on this issue was profound and concerning. It certainly shone a spotlight on the current lack of prioritization in retailing to better understand the potentially negative consequences of their use. It would seem that, to date, retailers have been keen to feast upon the positives of SCO but less keen to understand the possible downsides in terms of an increase in retail losses.

Check out the full article, “Unexpected Loss in the Bagging Area,” to learn more about levels of loss associated with self-checkout problems in both fixed and scan-and-go systems. The article also shares key tips on how to control self-checkout problems, whether they are caused by technology, design, or guardianship issues, and, as a result, how to keep shoppers honest.

For more great LP content, visit the Table of Contents for the January–February 2019 issue or register for a FREE print or digital subscription to the magazine. [Note: if you’re already a logged-in subscriber, the previous link will take you to the current issue instead.]

This post was originally published in 2019 and was updated April 2, 2019. 

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